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 The Theatreguide.London Review



Greenland
Lyttelton Theatre   Spring 2011

This new play, a committee-created work by writers Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne, is really just a large-scale big-budget bit of Theatre In Education, the sort of show that, in more modest form, tours to schools, complete with reading lists and discussion guides for teachers.

(A reading list is actually in the programme, and the National Theatre runs discussions in the lobby after performances.)

The subject is global warming and what can or should be done about it. Intermixed with bits of raw data are four or five plot lines (perhaps each written by one of the co-authors?).

A government aide travels with the British delegation to the 2009 UN conference on climate change after meeting with a scientist whose new computer projections are far worse than the worst case scenarios being considered. Bird-taggers in the Arctic find evidence of climate change in altered migration patterns. A dedicated young woman searches for ways to help, from supermarket sit-ins through ineffective hippy-dippy protest groups to Greenpiece-like sabotage.

Unfortunately for prospects of profitable classroom discussion, these and the other plot lines all lead to the conclusion that nothing will be done, nothing can be done, or whatever can be done isn't big enough to be worth doing.

Bijan Sheibani's production and Bunny Christie's design, as befitting the National Theatre, are quite inventive and impressive, with a cast of fifteen, full use of the Lyttelton's resources, film projections, a light show, a flying supermarket cart (don't ask), a quite impressive Panto polar bear and the invocation of the TV game show Deal Or No Deal as a metaphor for something I didn't quite catch.

It is barely possible that this show will tell you something about the subject that you don't already know and even, despite assuring you that nothing useful can be done, make you want to do something.

But as an evening's theatre, it is all flash and filigree, with God knows how big a carbon footprint. 


Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Greenland - National Theatre 2011