What on Earth is Happening to Our Planet?
It is hard to categorise Greenland in the Lyttleton at the National Theatre. It would be misleading to pigeonhole it as a docudrama because it isn’t a re-enactment of actual events. Loosely based around 2009’s abortive UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, Greenland is an ensemble piece that develops several stories simultaneously as its characters come to terms with the effects of global warming on their relationships.
Isabella Laughland is excellent as a trainee teacher who gives up her course to become an activist: on her travels, she loses hr illusions but never her convictions. Peter McDonald and Lyndsey Marshall are climate scientist and spin doctor locked in an unlikely romance while Michael Gould provides a haunting portrait of life spent in isolated study of a fragile ecosystem.
The climate change debate continues to provoke very strong feelings on all sides of the argument: controversial claims and counterclaims make it an ideal source for live theatre. Director Bijan Sheibani’s multimedia production makes full use of the wide Lyttleton stage, harnessing the crackling energy and urgency surrounding climate issues and entirely avoiding preaching to the audience in progress.
Interspersed with the personal journeys in the play is an account of the random and absurdly intractable nature of global politics. Mutual mistrust between first and third worlds, short-term economic interests of corporations more powerful than countries and an icy Washington runway conspire to wreck the prospects of a binding deal at Copenhagen.
Greenland’s team of four writers have been careful to acknowledge that it is impossible to be absolutely accurate about what will happen to temperatures in the future: even the climate scientist character, whose global mode indicates impending apocalypse, confesses himself uncertain about “unforseen events.” The play builds towards the conclusion that it would be absurd and childish just to hope for the best and, after two uninterrupted hours of excellent and discomforting theatre, you can take no refuge in the old childhood line: “it’s only a story”.
by Moira Buffini,Matt Charman,Penelope Skinner & Jack Thorne
Until Saturday 2nd April
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