I remember a phrase that we used a lot when I was a student - ‘the personal is political’. This brave new play at the National Theatre, about climate change and the urgency of taking global warming seriously, ultimately fails to pack a punch, partly because it doesn’t connect personal stories with this critical political issue well enough.
It’s safe to assume that any one who chooses to go to a play about climate change is not a vehement climate change sceptic, or at least is au fait with the main issues involved in the debate. And to that extent the play failed to reveal anything particularly new and fresh. In fact a lot of it felt like it had been written a couple of years ago at the time of the Copenhagen Climate Change summit, when Ed Miliband was a mere Energy & Climate Change Secretary, with a bit tagged on at the end to bring it up to date.
The play is a collaboration between four different writers, including the talented Moira Buffini. The problem was that it didn’t feel like they had collaborated nearly enough, if at all, and so we were left with a bit of a jumbled mess that was very hard to follow. It is not that political issues cannot make great plays – I loved David Hare’s ‘The Power Of Yes’ when I saw it here in October 2009. It was gripping, highly entertaining, and followed the fortunes of a character through the economic and moral maze of the global banking crisis to great effect. In fact it was everything that ‘Greenland’ is not. (http://culturaltalesoftwocities.blogspot.com/2009/10/theatre-review-power-of-yes-at-national.html)
Good points about Greenland were the acting – couldn’t find fault although there were no juicy roles to get to grips with; the great special effects including what looked like waterfalls in front of the stage, but may have been a clever trick; and how could I not mention the wonderful polar bear, who saved the night from disaster for me – just.
I hope the National does not stop trying to put on productions like this, but maybe gets just one great writer to do justice to the subject matter, and remembers that, as well as making a political point, a strong coherent plot is essential to the success of theatrical entertainment.