Telling stories with imagination.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Metta likes...the world (part 2)

Juliet Stevenson in The Heretic at the Royal Court, 2011
photo Keith Pattison
Last time I wrote about what theatre can do to reduce it's own carbon footprint, but can it also help by doing making theatre, by telling stories?

There's been a plethora of climate-related plays recently - from Net Curtains production of One-Nineteen at the Arcola a few years ago to the Royal Court's recent production of The Heretic (with Metta's Honorary Patron Juliet Stevenson). But what do they achieve?
I'm sure we've all had many an argument (over a couple too many drinks in the bar after some show or other) about what makes a good play - I know I've had my fair share - but one of the things I've come to realise is that it's hard (if not quite impossible) to make a good play solely about an idea. You need a good story, and you need good characters - and in fact if you look at some examples of good 'ideas' plays they really focus more on the people than the 'idea'. Climate change may may a good plot for a dubious disaster movie, but it's unlikely to do that to often on the stage. Instead the successful plays have picked up on personal stories - no surprise perhaps you say - but does that mean that the 'ideas' don't come through so strongly?

The Heretic at the Royal Court was sold as a 'climate change play', but it's the field of the science were actually a bit irrelevant in many ways - the idea it looked at was more generally one of the politicisation of science, and the personal story it told was, as always, one of relationships.

I really believe theatre can change the world politically - it can tell untold stories and make us think and question our society and the accepted norms around us, but can theatre help us with climate change? And if it can, how? I haven't seen the play that going to make the big difference yet, and don't know quite how it's going to do it when it comes along, but I'm hopeful!

Have you seen any good (or bad!) theatre about the environment? How do you think that making theatre can help us to help the environment?

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