SCENES FROM THE CLIMATE ERA
SCENES FROM THE CLIMATE ERA, Upstairs at Belvoir St Theatre, 27 May-25 June 2023. Photography by Brett Boardman
Playwright David Finnigan is best known for lighting fizzing, dangerous bungers under unsuspecting audiences and giving them a really good stir – most notably with Kill Climate Deniers (2017) and 44 Sex Acts in One Week (2020). In contrast, his latest play, Scenes From the Climate Era, is more of a damp squib than iconoclastic firework even though all the ingredients for a pyrotechnic display are present.
Billed to run at around 100 minutes, the second night performance was more like 75 minutes as the slick ensemble of Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Abbie-Lee Lewis, Brandon McClelland, Ariadne Sgouros and Charles Wu ripped through a huge number (30? 50?) of playlets on the way to either the end of the world as we know it or the age of nihilism – whichever comes first.
In such a kaleidoscopic helter-skelter the actors are more mouth pieces than characters, yet each managed to stake out an identity and deliver their various bits of bad news with conviction and (very) occasional flashes of humour. Director Carissa Licciardello maintained the pace with lucidly-choreographed movements of some chairs and several tables around an otherwise empty playing space variously lit to foreboding sunset effect (set and lighting: Nick Schlieper). That it all makes sense and no one falls over anyone else is a tribute to her and the cast.
Scenes starts promisingly enough with a couple at odds over the merits of plastic versus paper bags – actually funny and enlightening, if true, but with so much fake news in the air who would know. It then continues into more or less familiar climate change polemical territory, chopping and changing from past to future but delivering little that would surprise the converted (the Belvoir audience, that is).
Ella Butler’s costumes of baggy pants and other everyday togs reinforce the sense of ordinary people coping matter-of-factly with the unspeakable. Except, of course, they do speak – a lot – as does David Bergman’s soundscape and music which often supply the emotion that is determinedly absent from the text. No melodramatically manufactured crises here. Just the true crime of greedy human endeavour and the weird fascination of our Lemming-like behaviour in the face of run-of-the-mill catastrophe. Interesting enough until it runs out of steam, which is about halfway through. The end of the world will not be televised.