Eilis Sanfey’s Change is a series of verbatim stories from those living in parts of the world already suffering the consequences of global warming.
In a 50 minute collection of short monologues, three actors voice personal accounts from inhabitants of Papua New Guinea forced to relocate, the victim of a devastating Australian bush fire, the President of the Maldives – predicted to be underwater by 2050 (Maldives, not President), among others who tell of yet more climate-related disasters. ‘Mother Nature is speaking out’, a Filipino woman warns us, ‘and she’s a bitch’. Poignantly, the compilation closes with a voice recording of a young child detailing her knowledge of the subject – a sharp reminder that it is our children who will pay the price for our present recklessness.
‘Inequality’ is a keyword of this production. We hear predominantly from nations who are at more or less immediate risk; yet these are also the ones that are among the least responsible for global warming – those with the lowest carbon emissions. One particularly resonant plea from a woman from Kiribati, one of the most vulnerable in terms of climate change, is for industrialised countries to ‘see us as human beings’. The message is clear: it’s time for us to stop thinking of climate change as ‘someone else’s problem’ and to take collective responsibility.
It’s an issue well worth addressing, and providing a platform through which to mediate voices and viewpoints we don’t usually have access to is a vital role of theatre, if not a responsibility. But the execution of these ideas is quite dry, and the scenes disjointed. It’s commendable to bring a subject this crucial to the fore, to provide a voice for the vulnerable and the overlooked in order to raise awareness and effect change; it just needs to happen in a more exciting way. While interesting ideas and experiences are presented us in Sanfey’s work, nothing actually happens – there’s no drama. And if it’s going to use the stage as a platform, then drama it must have.
Change runs until 26th February at Arcola Theatre, 24 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London E8 3DL.
Tickets: £15 (£11 concessions)
Production shot by Dara Herlihy.