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‘If You Want to Be Green Hold Your Breath’: Climate Change in British Theatre

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 August 2012


With a rich mix of theatrical material to bring to the table, the climate-change debate playing out in the public domain would seem well adapted to the stage, and has often been presented in docu-dramatic form, as in Al Gore's well-known film An Inconvenient Truth. But until relatively recently climate change and the science relating to it have been conspicuous by their absence from the stage. Early movers on the climate-change theatre scene included Caryl Churchill's 2006 climate-change libretto for the London Proms, We Turned on the Light, and John Godber's 2007 play Crown Prince. Since then, interest has steadily increased. In 2009 came Steve Waters's double bill The Contingency Plan (On the Beach and Resilience). This was quickly followed by Earthquakes in London by Mike Bartlett in 2010, and by three further plays in the spring of 2011: Greenland, the collaborative work of Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner, and Jack Thorne; The Heretic by Richard Bean; and Wastwater by Simon Stephens. In this article Julie Hudson focuses on three of these works to explore how the plays engage with the debate through the medium of climate-change science. As her article suggests, these British climate-change plays make an important and occasionally subversive contribution to the long-running discourse on the relationship between science, the ecosystem, and human beings. In performance, they succeed in turning a subject that has been overplayed for effect in the public domain into compelling theatre. Julie Hudson is currently a visiting fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, Oxford University.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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