Venue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), May 27 – Jun 25, 2023
Playwright: David Finnigan
Director: Carissa Licciardello
Cast: Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Abbie-Lee Lewis, Brandon McClelland, Ariadne Sgourgos, Charles Wu
Images by Brett Boardman
Over 80 minutes, a string of familiar scenarios unfold on stage, all dealing with the climate crisis. Some true and some fictional, these more than 50 very short plays, reflect our contemporary attitudes about environmentalism, ranging from cynicism to alarming. David Finnigan’s Scenes from a Climate Era may be urgent in spirit, but is largely banal, in its representation of thoroughly recognisable situations. Nothing is surprising or obscure, so the show tends to underwhelm. Its accuracy in depicting our general nonchalance however, is beyond reproach.
Direction is provided by Carissa Licciardello, who along with set and lighting designer Nick Schlieper, imbue the production with a sense of theatricality at key moments, to help heighten our senses, even if emotions remain detached. Costumes by Ella Butler are versatile but appropriately unassuming, for depictions of these everyday conversations by people from all walks. David Bergman’s music and sound introduce tension when required, and are notably elegant in a show determined to refrain from dramatics, in favour of appealing to our logic.
The ensemble comprises five actors; Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Abbie-Lee Lewis, Brandon McClelland, Ariadne Sgourgos and Charles Wu are well-rehearsed, all demonstrating a good level of creativity that enables them to bring variety and differentiation, between moments in Scene from a Climate Era. Sgourgos and Wu are particularly memorable, for finding opportunities to deliver gentle laughs, as we try to deal with some of the hardest conundrums of our lifetime.
Climate issues seem to have been relegated to a perennial “too hard basket”. There appears to be an insurmountable passivity in how we deal with a crisis, which we can easily imagine to pose no immediate threat. Our lives have become so thoroughly commodified and monetised, we are at a complete loss in dealing with something that refuses to be paid off. In fact, we are discombobulated and unable to fathom anything that wants us to retreat, from capitalistic ways of thinking that have come to fundamentally define modern existence. Parts of Scene from a Climate Era are funny, especially when we watch ourselves march willingly, yet obliviously, towards certain extinction.