The climate emergency as a theme for stage performances has the potential to be a bit depressing, but watching the four plays at The Yard’s Live Drafts – Climate Works, I instead feel hope and inspiration.
The performances, as the name ‘Drafts’ suggests, are new ideas or ideas in progress. Each of them responds in completely different ways to the subject outlined in the Yard’s open call. It was great to get an insight into how different artists interpret such a wide brief.
This year’s drafts were part of a week-long festival celebrating The Yard’s 10th anniversary. The theatre also runs a programme of music and theatre workshops and community projects such as providing food parcels and art resources.
Here are reviews of the performances with electric ideas to help save our world.
Amazônia by Gaël Le Cornec
Maps can lead you to all sorts of stories, Le Cornec found when she picked them up as a hobby during lockdown. She uses them to tell us the stories of her north Brazilian ancestors, who make up part of the identity she shares with other cultures.
These lead into a narrative about the destruction of the Amazon and racism, told through powerful acting and spoken word. There is much to relate to for people experiencing the challenges, and at times the humour, of balancing different backgrounds.
The three Brazilian aunties who “phone” her during the show don’t understand why she hasn’t married Prince Harry, are determined to find her a boyfriend, and can’t grasp her life as an actor. Her imaginative storytelling methods bring charm and surprise.
The music and poetry make for a beautiful, warm and stirring exploration of Le Cornec’s origins.
Rice and Husk by Camilla Anvar
There’s a line in Rice and Husk that says sometimes a sentence isn’t enough and instead you need thousands of words.
“We want to explore this huge thing but we don’t know how to do it apart from with a huge metaphor, or with art,” Anvar tells me.
This approach works well in tackling an issue as complicated as food politics, which she explores through collaborative stories, poetry, visuals, music and rice – raising some interesting questions.
The performance is rooted in research on identity and food within the British East and South East Asian community, and uses art and props from artists in Fish Island, Hackney Wick.
Rice production has huge environmental and human costs but does that mean we just stop eating it, Anvar asks, or should we instead tackle the way we approach our food and raise awareness of where it comes from?
She uses clever images to challenge our disproportionate outrage about individual waste in light of structural, global food wastage and questions our lack of focus on community efforts.
This story of a grain of rice journeying from Asia to a UK supermarket unpicks the complexities of food politics and gives rise to a much-needed conversation.
An Inconvenient Feeling by Nina Bowers
Bowers sets this piece up by acting as a profound and super-wired Ted-talk speaker, Dr Flowers, which I love.
Throughout the performance, she is alive with drama. As the character’s existential panic rises, she makes free associations within her main themes of identity and climate, going from mermaids to racism, to space and more.
The show is thought-provoking, well-written chaos, mirroring a collapsing internal and external world with great emotion.
Bowers makes meaningful points about identity, like the pressure she is under to “define my curls, un-frizzy my thoughts” while the world is collapsing, and how we choose to remember history.
This celestial adventure into someone’s mind is a complete pleasure.
Climate Grief Karaoke by Katy Dye
Climate Grief Karaoke, contrary to its name, is a fun send-off to the earth and the evening.
Dye has a contagious energy and unfaltering, bouncy confidence, and really gets the crowd involved. She asks if song, when used as a cathartic outlet for the enormous ecological emergency, can resensitise us to the issue and inspire action.
The effects of this were bizarrely joyous, especially with such an electric performer. Some crowd interaction formed the beginnings of reflection on how we see accountability and agency to tackle the climate emergency.
Live Drafts from previous years have been turned into fully fleshed-out shows, and I’d be interested to see where Dye would take this one because it’s such an interesting idea.
After watching her, I highly recommend singing your heart out as a video of a bush fire blazes in the background.
Find out what’s coming up at The Yard at theyardtheatre.co.uk.