Updated: Nov 8, 2019
"Rage on its own can be debilitating, but rage alongside action can bring hope" says Tim Jackson, director of CUSP, as he quoted Jonathon Porritt, author of the 2013 book The World We Made, which a new play by Beth Flintoff was inspired by. Jackson said that this is the message of the play, of Beth’s script, of Jonathon’s life work, and the message that the actors Leann O’Kasi and Tom Ross-Williams so powerfully conveyed. He said this as he concluded the post-performance discussion of its second show at Farnham Maltings on November 2.
The World We Made is a retrospective story, set in 2050, as told by students Keli and Luke, who give us a glimpse of how our lives could be in the future. Directed by Sophie Austin, it is a story of how we combat climate change and achieve sustainability, if we come together and take the urgent action we need to take today. It weaves stories across decades and continents, including both heartbreaking and inspiring tales from the past, present and future, and the challenges different people tackle in different parts of the world.
Inspired by Porritt’s book, Becky Burchell, producer of the play, was compelled to bring this book to life, she said, and felt that the arts greatly needed to catch up in conveying some of these most important issues of our time. It really left me so inspired, and I'd encourage more creatives (writers, filmmakers, designers) in different parts of the world to come up with similar, localized stories of hope in these times of crisis expressed through the more emotional and engaging channel of art.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the production, but I felt that it was really exceptional, because of the simplicity of the setup (its setup involves a low-powered kit with minimal environmental impact that can be transported in four suitcases via public transport); its focus on the script/storytelling; the acting; and the aural and spatial details that made it was a really immersive and engaging experience. My friends and I left Farnham talking about the little details we loved, and how it seemed to use a lot of well-thought communication strategies (e.g. focusing on stories vs. numbers; taking the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions; relating past, present and future).
Hope and compassion, always
Today, more and more people are feeling divided, or left feeling disempowered: by their eco-anxiety; by lack of transparency and accountability from governments and business; by mistrust in the institutions that are supposed to serve in our common interest as inhabitants of this finite planet. We need hope to perpetually renew our energy, and to fight against the human crises of greed, arrogance and apathy, which have ultimately led to the environmental degradation we face today.
Just yesterday, 11,000 scientists made a statement of hope in our collective action, and how we need to take massive steps to avoid "untold suffering". Surely, the title of this Guardian article could have highlighted the presence of solutions / actions in the scientists' statement, which called citizens to reduce energy use and switch to renewable; protect and restore our ecosystems; eat more plants, less meat; shift economic goals away from GDP growth; promote longer education for girls. And we also need to go beyond individual lifestyle change and demand that corporations, local and national governments take the necessary action today. "We cannot be radical enough," says David Attenborough.
After the play, Jonathon Porritt said: "The reason to be urgent just grows and grows and grows, and the only reason why we still can be hopeful is if we see Extinction Rebellion, school strikes, mass civil disobedience becoming more and more influential, impacting more and more on society widely and bringing a wider and wider group of people into that sense of the urgency. So that's what hope looks like. There's no hope in thinking that somehow we're going to pull out a technological white rabbit out of a hat. Technology is going to help us a lot, but not enough to get to the hard difficult bits about economics, about choice, about social welfare. If we don't do this in an equitable, fair and compassionate way, we won't do it. And that's the essence of bringing it alive. It's all about compassion. It's all about how we respond to each other as people. And that for me is really important. There is some techy stuff in there, there are a few numbers chucked in, but it is about relationships. It's about compassion. It's about us as people."
Jackson closed the performance by reminding the audience that: "Your thoughts, your engagement, your action, your rage and your love tonight will be a part of what will create the world that we will have made." Every day, we make choices on how we live, and every day the choices we make (and the ones we choose not to make) all contribute to the world we are making for ourselves and future generations in the decades and centuries to come.
Upcoming performances are scheduled in Guildford (Nov. 8) and in Manchester (Dec. 3). Learn more about the play through CUSP here, and to inquire about commissions, get in touch with Becky Burchell here.