Rage But Hope, Streatham Space Project

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by Laura Kressly

An M&S-shopping grandmother. A year seven girl. A young, gay black man. An armed services vet. These are some of the Extinction Rebellion activists that playwright Stephanie Martin celebrates through this articulate and impassioned collection of monologues that advocate for people to commit to any level of action against climate change. However, the problematic aspects of the movement are largely glossed over in order to frame its collective impact as wholly positive.

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How to Save a Rock, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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By Meredith Jones Russell

An earnest entreaty to save our planet, How to Save a Rock is a hugely well-intentioned and charming play which just slightly runs out of steam. It’s packed full of other forms of energy, however, as the whole show claims to be carbon neutral, powered by an on-stage bike and solar power.

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Are we not drawn onward to new erA, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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by Laura Kressly

Whether society is moving backwards or forwards is a matter of debate, though in regards to climate change, it’s pretty clear we are determined to march onwards to our own destruction. Is it too late to undo the damage we’ve caused? Is magic the only thing that can save us? In this slick, multimedia production from Ontroerend Goed, the Belgian company employs clever staging, a palindromic structure, and impressive design to pose these questions, even though there are no easy answers.

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Kill Climate Deniers, Pleasance

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by Amy Toledano

While the UK is dealing with political transitions and scrutiny, so too is Australia. With the large size of the country and massive environmental threats (a hole in the ozone layer and the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef to name a couple), there are plenty of people trying to make change. However, there is also a group of people who truly believe climate change is a thing of fiction – the climate change deniers.

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3 Billion Seconds, Vault Festival

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by Laura Kressly

The average baby born in Britain today will live for three billion seconds. They will be responsible for contributing approximately 58.6 tonnes of carbon to the environment. As such, climate scientists widely agree that not having children at all or having one less child than originally planned will have a significant effect on pollution levels. Climate change activists Daisy and Michael know this, and advocate for reducing the population in their environmentalism talks they give around the country – but what happens when they fall pregnant?

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The Children, Manhattan Theatre Club

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by NY guest critic Steven Strauss

American dramaphiles tend to view Britain as a hotbed of hyper-verbal and hyper-intellectual plays, especially in comparison to our home-bred musicals that often lack the same resonant depth. This is of course a gross over-generalization with countless exceptions, but personally, I became a card-carrying theatrical anglophile thanks to the massive transatlantic influx of Stoppardian texts in which characters talk talk talk about Serious and Important Ideas.

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Swansong and Road to Huntsville, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

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Though climate change has long been a problem, political theatre often ignores it. DugOut’s Swansong faces the issue head on, placing four survivors of a global flood in a swan pedalo. A capella songs and situation comedy bring plenty of joy and laughter to the boat, but the enormity of their survival and uncertain future weighs heavy. Will they find land, or will they kill each other first?

Like the start of a joke, hippy vegan Bobby, posh boy Steven, gym bunny Claire and nihilist Adam are on a boat, and have been for at least a little while now. They’ve already worked out exactly how to wind each other up, which generates the comedy that keeps Sadie Spencer and Tom Black’s script from becoming too heavy. The lightness contrasting the serious of their post-apocalyptic waterworld tips more towards comedy, but the balance mostly works. As they make plans for rebuilding the world to the vision they are creating from scratch in Bobby’s journal (obviously with plenty of arguments), there’s a natural progression towards eventuality – will they find land and survive, or will they all die on the pedalo?

The characters are rather stereotypical for the sake of comedy; despite this there are some poignant moments of understanding and empathy. They are effectively performed but somewhat lacking in depth, though sung interludes between scenes and the resolution help negate this unsatisfaction.

This spirited production is a relief from more sombre approaches to political issues, and a good laugh at that despite its shortcomings. Road to Huntsville is an entirely different beast, though the topic is just as infrequent on British stages. Theatre maker Stephanie Ridings stumbles across a documentary about women who fall in love with prisoners on America’s death rows. Thinking this could be the start of a new play, she latches onto the subject and delves into a world that she doesn’t understand, but doesn’t want to judge. As her research leads her further down the rabbit hole, she emerges in the “death penality capital” of the country, Huntsville, Texas.

Road to Huntsville shares Ridings’ process and turns it into a story of itself. More of a documentary, there are no preconceptions – we are in a theatre to hear about her findings. The curious but emotionally detached beginning takes its time to cave into emotional connection with the people she meets who are at the mercy of a state sanctioned killing machine. This show is a slow burner, but by the end, her passion and rage against the death penalty rally the audience to her side. Her frustrated helplessness hangs heavily in the air as she tries to return to normal life, then she does the same to us, sending us out into the busy joy of Summerhall. Though it makes for melancholy, lingering reflection, Ridings’ reminder that not everyone has the privilege of living in a country where the government won’t kill you if you commit a crime.

Swansong runs through 29th August, Road to Huntsville runs through 28th August.

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