I spoke to Davis Freeman before the show and he said that when he watched Al Gore’s documentary on the ecological crisis he fell asleep. I agreed it was boring. Somehow, even though this is one of the most devastating things that is facing the human race, we find it hard to get excited about it. Why?
I believe it’s the most important dilemma facing artists ever in history: how can we dramatise the ecological crisis?
My own proposal is that art needs to engage in a bit of Stalinism mixed with Aztec blood sacrifices. I propose we give a degree of global political power (UN president or something) to the world’s top ecological scientist and then hold a gun to their head. If they don’t bring the global warming down in 1 month they get shot. Then get the next best scientist in and give them another month. It would be the most watched show on earth. More watched than some US election with a reality TV star. In the end I estimate that no more than 25 scientists would die. But in those two years we’d have saved the lives of a billion humans, billions and billions more animals, most of our remaining eco-systems, our breathable air and our running water. Unfortunately, Stalin is dead and Fidel Castro died today and liberal democratic values and a squeamishness about the death penalty pervade the modern left.
Random Scream have another response to the dilemma though that is much simpler. On stage, in front of an audience, they invite you to solemnly promise to do things that will benefit the planet. When you make your promise you are rewarded with a vodka. They go through different promises starting with the easy (to spend €40 in a farmers market) to the difficult (to not fly for a whole year (which only one person promised not to do)).
It’s a very clever use of ritual and theatre. Everyone knows that they are free to lie. Nobody is going to check up on them afterwards. Yet the audience behaved as if the promises were binding. And in a way, they were binding. Most people didn’t get up for the promise not to have children, for instance, even though it was their last chance to get a free vodka.
The show hits on something very particular in theatre. There is something fundamentally solemn when a group of people bear witness together. It’s like an ancient aspect of human life that can’t be replicated online or through the media.
So if my Stalinist solution isn’t viable then maybe the next best thing would be having Random Scream do a stadium world tour making Seven Promises. Come tonight I recommend it.
Dick for DRAFF