Theatre for a changing planet

Posted on 06 December 2011 by admin

By Andre Marais – Amandla Magazine*

DURBAN, Dec 6 – (TerraViva) A re-working of the Adam and Eve story into a side-splitting farce on the growing environmental crisis and its ramifications is on stage at the U.N. climate conference. This must-see political comedy draws on the traditions of vaudeville and agitprop to unpack many of the urgent issues raised around the negotiations, but with a spunk and humour absent from the ranks of grey suits inside the talks.

Never preachy or didactic, “Tipping on the tipping point”, a play by the small U.S.-based theatre company Human Nature, sets out the looming ecological catastrophe and the complicity of unaccountable corporate power with wit, enthusiasm and charm.

Jane Lapner and David Simpson started Human Nature in their home t§own in northern California about ten years ago. The touring theatre company deals with environmental and social issues. They are performing in South Africa with their daughter, Joyful Raven, playing the earth goddess Gaia, and with Angus Martin, a California musician who composed original music for the show.

Jane Lapner and Joyful Raven, Human Nature Theatre Company.

Tipping the tipping point. Credit: Andre Marais/TerraViva

The show uses the Adam and Eve story with a twist, combining creation myths, corporate greenwashing and some great music to create theatre that had the audience at the Catalina Theatre on Wilson’s Wharf roaring with laughter.

“We travelled to COP 15 in Copenhagen two years ago, but did not perform there,” says Lapner. “But we just felt we had to bring this play to South Africa.”

She adds that they have tried to adapt it the local context as best they could, using familiar references to poopular culture from the U.S. and South Africa.

“This is our first visit to South Africa and although we hoped for larger audiences, it has been a wonderful experience so far,” says Simpson, who plays the roles of Adam, a corporate fat cat and an oil rig worker.

What is refreshing about the play is the way it takes the edge off the hard politics and the tendency for green campaigners to get a little high-brow and overly intellectual. That is the true power of good political theatre: to educate and entertain without diluting the central message.

Human Nature will also be staging the play as part of the Climate Jobs Campaign at the People’s Space at the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Dec. 6.

Go see it! I hope this production travels post-COP 17. It deserves a wider audience.

* Community media coverage of COP 17 is being supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency of South Africa, which is promoting the participation of local journalists through a programme of training and reporting on climate change.

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