Heresy or commonplace?

Only moments ago, watching the ITV News account of the tsunami resulting from the earthquake in NE Japan, I heard the announcer say that low-lying Pacific Islands were menaced - and that for many of them this was a double blow, as some of them had previously had to be evacuated owing to the consequences of global warming. It strikes me as odd - and interesting - that the TV news presenter can refer to climate change in a commonsensical, low-key way, while some global warming-deniers are still shouting from the (metaphorical) rooftops, and while there have been two plays in London recently struggling to deal with the climate change question: i.e., whether it is man-made, as no one can actually deny the fact of climate change.


How odd it is for anyone to be undecided about this question, and still odder to be a denier. This attitude is more or less shared by the first of the two plays, "Greenland." When I reviewed it in the Wall Street Journal, I said:

With a new play, "Greenland," the National Theatre has a rare misfire on its large Lyttelton stage. The work, a big-hearted attempt to dramatize the real problems of climate change and global warming, credits four playwrights, of whom the best-known is the usually tack-sharp Moira Buffini. The director is the promising young British-Iranian, Bijan Sheibani; the design side, led by Bunny Christie (who won the CC designer award for "The White Guard") is imaginative; and there are some lovely performances.

"Greenland" is a collection of vignettes ranging in their setting from protest camps to the Arctic, and there are some good moments from a lesbian couple talking to their therapist, to a perfect pantomime polar bear nuzzling a young man who is very under-dressed for Alaska. A play of sorts does emerge from these scenes, but what's lacking is some observance of the good old-fashioned, neo-Aristotelian respect for the dramatic unities.

         "The Heretic" by the acerbic and witty playwright, Richard Bean, at the Royal Court Theatre, has the advantages of a real star, Juliet Stevenson, as Dr. Diane Cassell (motto: "I'm a Scientist. I don't believe in anything") and a lovely performance by a young actor, Johnny Flynn, as Ben Shotter, Diane's daughter's right-on (but capable of thought despite his commitment and a hint of autism).

         Ms Stevenson's character is the heretic of the title. She's a climatologist who is not convinced about anthropogenic global warming. Indeed, she doesn't believe the Maldives are sinking; that the sea levels there have not risen in the last 20 years.  The idea is that Mr. Bean's "black comedy" questions whether the question is actually settled, or (to quote the Royal Court's website): "Could the belief in anthropogenic global warming be the most attractive religion of the 21st century?"

         The play is full of zippy one-liners, and the laughs keep it buoyant. Mr. Bean does succeed in making the argument personal, so that we care about the victimization of Diane Cassell - and thus there's some genuine drama. "The Heretic" a good deal more fun than "Greenland," even if its heart is in the wrong place.

         The real trouble with "The Heretic" is, however, shown by the ITV news reporter: the question is, for all practical purposes, settled, and Mr. Bean is simply keeping company with the Flat Earthers.


March 11, 2011 2:43 PM | | Comments (0)

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This page contains a single entry by Plain English published on March 11, 2011 2:43 PM.

Modern British Sculpture? was the previous entry in this blog.

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