Monday, 31 January 2011


31/1/11, National (Lyttelton)

(For the first time I'm planning to link to this blog from Twitter, making it a deliberately rather than accidentally public document. Interesting the way that changes it, knowing it's no longer purely a personal aide-memoire)

Superfluous smoking alert.
2 hrs no interval. Final preview. Disappointing multi-author climate change play (Moira Buffini was the only name I recognised), with an interesting drama about the Copenhagen climate change summit struggling to get out from an unsatisfactory mish-mash of interwoven playlets and sketches. Marred by some baffling directorial decisions.

Early on there was some shadow-boxing with climate change sceptics, especially in an early scene where a student in a supermarket rows with her parents about giving up her PGCE to become an activist ("Ipswich might be under water"). They cannot comprehend: while her mother urges her not to junk her career and waste her degree her father quotes climate sceptics' "proof" that it's all nonsense. But the idea isn't developed dramatically and the scene is undermined because the girl is suspended (why, for god's sake?) in mid-air from a supermarket trolley. Maybe Richard Bean's The Heretic at the Royal Court will be more robust.

Otherwise this is preaching to the converted, among whom I am happy to count myself. At one point a scientist displays the hockey-stick graph of global temperatures suddenly soaring from the early 19thC onwards which convinced me the earth was warming (and, in conjunction with a similar graph of CO2 emissions, that man and the Industrial Revolution were responsible).

There are five parallel strands. One features the student and her subsequent career as an activist: the career is unsatisfactory, given that the Welsh hunk she falls for ditches her for a rival (perhaps he was really a policeman). In another two women address the audience about the difficulty one of them has in living up to her ideals: she goes to Starbucks once a week (no, says her friend, it's every day); she was a vegan for two months (but, says her friend, she still ate cheese). Perhaps this was supposed to be funny, but it wasn't really, even though one of the women is played by the amazing Amanda Lawrence. In a third strand a scientist who spends his summers alone in the arctic spotting and tagging guillemots talks to his younger self, a bright working-class lad from Walthamstow we first meet being interviewed by a snotty don for a place to read geography at Cambridge. At one point they're threatened by a rather impressive polar bear which provoked gales of (intentional?) laughter; at another point in one of the cleverer pieces of staging cast members' flapping hands stand in for the birds as they're tagged.

A fourth strand featured an irritating young man in a shell suit spouting cod psychology with the rest of the cast lined up alongside him on Deal or No Deal: for the life of me I couldn't see what this had to do with anything else, unless it was the foolishness of putting all your eggs in one basket (or hoping for a "one box answer" to your problems).

The fifth strand had the most potential. Young female assistant to Ed Miliband (in his days as environment secretary) tracks down a climate scientist whose latest model predicts utter catastrophe, hoping to use it as ammunition in Copenhagen. We see the conference convening, meet the delegates from Mali (the world's third-poorest country), see news footage, hear accounts of Obama's descent on the event. The assistant and the scientist climb into bed together. They talk about the future (or lack of it -- is it wise to have children?), about politics, while a conference organiser (Lawrence again) tells us why it all went wrong. There are some good jokes. I wanted more of this: character, drama, wit, an informative narrative.

The staging by Bijan Sheibani was unhelpful. The action occupied the entire Lyttelton stage, stripped bare of scenery, right to the back wall and the illuminated exit signs. Which meant the cast had to be miked because the acoustics were so bad. There were occasional bursts of Enron-style song and dance. And at the end, unclear how to finish, the lights dimmed, the cast walked slowly forward and two huge fans blew the paper shreds which had fallen as snow during the arctic scenes and the papers from the Copenhagen summit into the audience and that back wall opened to reveal a massive sun. A rip-off of Slava's Snowshow but not as stunning.

Perhaps a smaller venue would have helped. Or a single author. Or a focus on Copehagen, Full marks for tackling an important contemporary issue, but otherwise a disappointment.

1 comment:

  1. Phil Jones's email to Hockey-Stick-Team leaders Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley, and Malcolm Hughes: "I’ve just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd (sic) from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline."

    You are not alone in being fooled over the legitimacy of the Hockey Stick graph. Let's hope that Richard Bean's The Heretic captures the essence of this notorious piece of junk science.