Royal Court Theatre Takes On Climate Change
PublishedNovember 13, 2014 CategoryArts Social Action

Royal Court Theatre Takes On Climate Change

It seems many moons ago (“Silent Springs and the Autumn of Creativity”, Poetry Matters, October 2012) since Arts Social Action first invoked Rachel Carson’s 1962 classic as a particular and necessary call-to-action on climate change for those of us who work in, or around, or aspire to the world of the arts.

Our conclusion was that ‘Silent Spring’ was much more than a plea to save nature and our birds; it was a plea to save our culture, arts, science – ultimately ourselves. We need to listen again, understand better the holistics of the need, join the action. Carson was also obliged, over 50 years ago, to take on at great cost the giant fertiliser Corporates, whose products were the cause.

So that Naomi Klein, in her seminal new book (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate”) is not inventing, but re-discovering, the key, causative link between our deepening carbo-emissions / earth-warming crises and the sustained depredations of decades of unregulated, free-market, global capitalism.

This will be no surprise, but cause for fresh resolve, for supporters of the Arts Social Action vision. Our prospectus (Synopsis: Arts Social Action’ August 2014)  specifically linked these two priorities for action – on Climate Change and Escalating Social Inequalities of Wealth – both driven by the uncontrolled extremes of ‘free market’ global banking and corporate behaviour.

This time round, the option of inaction is neither practically nor morally available. Nor, as I argued in my recent blog, are cynicism, hopelessness, alienation or fear appropriate. We have about a year, on the ‘conventional’ agenda, to make sure that at least the broad blueprint and carbon/renewables targets of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2014 Report, just released) become agreed, committed and binding UN policy.

Beyond that, but starting now, we will need to re-enter and re-occupy the neglected, badly – charted territories of our disintegrating societies; releasing and enfranchising an unprecedented outburst of localised, grass-roots initiatives at community, non-governmental, work-place, union, professional, educational, faith and other devolved, involved and self-activating levels; in short, the progressive reclamation of our subverted democracies.

This implies the need for sustained motivation and high levels of creativity in communicating, challenging and inspiring these massive but necessary changes in so many aspects of our mutual behaviours and relationships; and if we are to have a chance of changing the trajectory of such worlds in full flight. It supplies the incontrovertible logic for suggesting that we, involved in the many aspect of our ‘creative arts’, have some needed skills and special responsibilities in this demanding Renaissance which we should be working vigorously and pro-actively to deploy.

There is some good news around.

In my blog Death and Resurrection of the Business / Market Model” (Feb. 2014) I drew attention to David Hare’s “The Power of Yes” which opened at the National Theatre in 2009 when the Banking and Financial Crisis was still a very active memory – as an example of ‘the often symbiotic relationship between the best of art and the direst of realities’.

It had inspired the heartening if unusual ‘Independent’ headline

“If you want to understand the banking crisis, you should go to the theatre”
(Oct. 2009).

Now (2 November 2014) the Guardian’s excellent theatre critic, Michael Billington, has done a much more detailed analysis of contemporary theatre, compared with film and television, which leads him to conclude “Society’s mirror is now the stage” – which is patently true, but also a useful goad to other art forms. I strongly recommend the reading of Billington’s article and will be saying more about it in due course.

For the moment, I’m happy to pick up (and Arts Social Action will be there) Billington’s advance flagging of scientist Chris Rapley and playwright Duncan Macmillan’s collaborative play 2071, opening this week at the Royal Court.

It examines the dire consequences of escalating greenhouse gas emissions.

Political and Social theatre is alive and vigorously well.

Ralph Windle 13 Nov. 2014