Five days ago, three quarters of Venice flooded as high winds and heavy rain hit Italy. And this may not be an isolated incident. Projections of rising sea levels show that many heritage sites in Italy are under threat. So much for the centre of the Roman empire and cradle of Renaissance – one day the treasures of Italy may be submerged by water.
Despite Trump’s insistence that climate change is a hoax, it is undeniable that global warming very close to home. It is perhaps rather timely that the Extinction Rebellion, a protest movement against the government’s lack of spending to mitigate the effects of climate change, took place this Halloween’s eve in London.
It is against this backdrop that I previewed the upcoming student production How To Save A Rock With A Circle. Written, directed and produced entirely by Oxford students, the play examines our relationship with the climate and explores how a looming climate apocalypse could have a real impact on our daily lives.
The play is set in 2028. Fracking is in full swing across north England and people are getting angry. Small earthquakes and power cuts have become the norm. Many are deeply concerned and unhappy about the lack of human endeavours to improve the situation. Hence, political unrest ensues, and mass protests become a regular feature of people’s daily life.
The actors showed me a scene in a London airport, where four friends are trying to get on a flight to Iceland. They’re trying to reach a polar bear that one of the characters is in love with (they met online). Trapped on an ice cap that has just broken off from Greenland, the polar bear is drifting towards Iceland – a dangerous place to be heading as, by law, they are required to shoot any polar bears that come their way. This is not borne out of irrational hatred towards the cuddly polar bears, but out of practicalities – the government cannot afford rescue missions for polar bears on a regular basis. The group is against the clock – they need to meet the polar bear in three days. However, things don’t really go their way.
With tickets in hand, they run into a wall of silent protesters, blocking their way to the terminal. This is where the scene gets interesting – the actors attempt to climb over the audience, immobile in their seats very much like the silent protesters, on their fictional journey to the terminal.
This scene seems to epitomise the core philosophy of the play. The company are trying to convey a sense of urgency and unease, but they always do so with humour. They want everyone in the room to feel involved with what’s happening on stage. After all, it will take a lot of co-operation if we ever hope to save our planet.
The play is also a zero- carbon production. Actors will ride on a bicycle which in turn converts energy into electricity, and elsewhere solar lighting will be used. Instead of playing sound from speakers, it will all be created live on stage.
People may think that a play about climate change might not be engaging. But by focusing on ordinary people who are themselves finding it difficult to get to grips with environmental disaster, this play eases itself into these difficult topics. Innovatively designed, it is definitely be a thought-provoking experience.