Never one to shy away from a challenge, the National Theatre’s newest creation is a collaborative project by four playwrights about one of the most debated issues of our time. But when the subject is climate change, can theatre ever hope to shake people’s stubborn beliefs?
Moira Buffini, Penelope Skinner, Matt Charman and Jack Thorne certainly leave the audience with plenty to think about. Statistics and facts are thrown at the audience in a visually striking production that sees broken plastic become a glittery carpet on the apocalyptic stage, paper float like falling birds from skies above, glow-in-the-dark trolleys glide mid-air and even a polar bear joining the cast for a fleeting few minutes of surreal magic.
The play revolves around several separate stories intertwined together, each presenting a different perspective of climate change with the 15 characters’ lives affected to different extremes. In Alaska an explorer waits for rare birds, in England a couple are forced into relationship counselling as a result of their differing attitudes to the ice-caps melting. Meanwhile a young idealist visits a festival, confused by what it means to say you are an activist, while her parents wish to stay cocooned in their comforting ignorance.
Based around 2009’s Copenhagen conference, the central storyline sees Lyndsey Marshal play a government worker who finds herself distracted from her quest for environmental salvation by a scientist whose vision of the future is too bleak to bear. With references to her boss Ed Miliband, Marshal’s story and real video footage from the conference places the play firmly in the hands of reality.
Bunny Christie’s extravagant design offers surprising and tangible touches that bring movement and life to the set when combined with director Bijan Sheibani’s multi-media approach that uses projections, videos and sound in almost overwhelming quantities.
Whether audiences choose to view Greenland as an educational experience or merely two hours of frivolous entertainment is up to them. But with hints of Complicite’s theatrical magic and moments of beautiful surrealism, entertain it will.