Since the beginning of human civilisation, someone, somewhere has been predicting its end and keeping an eye out for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to storm across the skies.

Now Generation Y or Z, or whatever it is we're up to, has a new hazard to ride alongside famine, war and pestilence: unchecked consumerism, which is killing the planet. Rather than wait quietly for "the end", Wellington's Binge Culture Collective is taking to the stage determined to make its audiences sit up and think.

The collective, a group of young graduates from Victoria University's theatre programme, visits Auckland next week with two works, Animal Hour and Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish brought together under the foreboding title Elimination Rounds.

It opens with Animal Hour, described as a savagely Darwinistic talent show where starry-eyed contestants are ambushed by a wildlife documentary crew and find themselves confronted head-on by their own animal instincts.

A single contestant remains as Animal Hour gradually morphs into Drowning Bird, Plummeting Fish where an anarchic end of the world party is in full swing - if you don't mind warm beer and bad music.

"We're exploring what it's like to be part of a generation that is constantly told it has no future," says Ralph Upton who, along with Joel Baxendale, directs.

Both see unchecked consumerism as one of the more insidious threats to humankind. Upton says this is because it is more difficult to clearly recognise its impact and take a stand.

Protest messages have an uncanny way of being co-opted to bolster the very thing they are reacting to.

"Time is running out," he says, "but we want to stay away from telling people what to think and do and create an experience in which they can be challenged and provoked."

Binge Culture members - Rachel Baker, Baxendale, Simon Haren, Claire O'Loughlin, Upton, Fiona McNamara, Rose Guise, Gareth Hobbs, Steph Cairns and Jake Baxendale - say while concerns about their fates may not be entirely new, their approach to theatre is a little different.

Rather than assuming characters and working from a script, players blur the lines between themselves and their stage alter egos and, in turn, with audiences.

"You're never quite sure if the people on stage are being themselves or playing a character," says O'Loughlin, who produces the show.

Devised work, always created collaboratively, usually starts with collective members bringing a prop which can be anything from a piece of text to a soft toy or an item of clothing.

Stories are constructed around these but, says O'Loughlin, the idea is often to "subvert" shared thoughts about the items. For example, in Animal Hour a panda goes on a violent rampage.

"We usually think of pandas as being cute and cuddly; one being violent isn't usually something we see or hear about," she says.

Baxendale says Binge Culture has been influenced by Britain's Forced Entertainment. A Sheffield outfit, Forced Entertainment started in 1984 to explore what theatre and performance can mean in contemporary life, according to its website.

Its six members also collaborate, frequently using props as the starting point for new work: "The work we make is always a kind of conversation or negotiation. We're interested in making performances that excite, frustrate, challenge, question and entertain. We're interested in confusion as well as laughter."

So it is with Binge Culture - and this approach is winning them fans. The collective were voted Best Newcomers at the NZ Fringe '09, Most Original Concept at the Dunedin Fringe '09 and, this year, Best Outdoor Act at the NZ Fringe.

LOWDOWN
What: Elimination Rounds
Where and when: Basement Theatre, April 6-10