Climate change, global warming, greenhouse effect, carbon emissions – there are many words to describe it and even more emotions associated with its impacts. Scenes from the Climate Era at Belvoir explores our complicated and tumultuous relationship with climate change. Presenting over fifty stories which delve into climate science, activism, and denial, it doesn’t pull any punches or attempt to mute reality.
We see five performers – Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Abbie-Lee Lewis, Brandon McClelland, Ariadne Sgouros and Charles Wu – act out various narratives. There are the scientists attempting to create a new ecoculture, the friends discussing the last time they hopped on a plane and the last silver frog headed for extinction. Underpinning all of this are the three stages of climate anxiety – denial, solutions, and despair. We see each of these play out throughout the performance.
Writer David Finnigan has been creating theatre with climate researchers for nearly 20 years, which explains the astonishing amount of information contained within the 80-minute run time. Real-world events and conversations shape the well-crafted narrative and are interwoven with predictions for an uncertain future. Climate change itself is not a new concept, having been a topic of debate since the 1970s, but as Finnigan rightly demonstrates with Scenes from the Climate Era, the conversation is rapidly changing.
Directed by Carissa Licciardello, the play adopts a non-linear approach, with each of the performers presenting a different monologue or a scene in rapid succession. There are no ‘characters’, as such, and their relationships with one another change and alter your perception. Nick Schlieper does an incredible job with set and lighting design which is engineered to draw your focus while not being overpowering. The subtlety of the stage is in direct contrast to the complexity of the performance, as if mitigating the overwhelming words with simple visuals.
The performance of all five actors was courageous. Raw, vulnerable, and utterly engaging, there was nowhere to hide on that stage, and it showed. Each held their own with equal measure and created an authenticity that was essential to convey the lessons behind Scenes from the Climate Era. Because at its heart, that’s what this play is – a lesson. Or perhaps a warning.
Acting as both a wake-up call and a call to arms, Scenes from the Climate Era is both ridiculously amusing and terrifyingly accurate. If you already experience climate anxiety proceed with caution, this play will likely escalate it. If you don’t have climate anxiety – you will. Does this mean we stop listening, stop caring? Absolutely not. As one of the characters remarked, “Maybe caring is a final act of contrition.”
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Scenes from the Climate Era runs until 25 June 2023. For more information and to book head to the Belvoir website.
Writer attended the performance on 31 May 2023.