The fear with a piece of theatre about climate change is that it will largely be a lecture urging us to stop driving our cars, stop eating meat and look after our coastlines. These are valid points as lectures, and they are valid points as newspaper articles and factual documentaries. They are points that have been made in stunning photography exhibitions, displayed worldwide. Film has also tackled the topic consistently well. But as a piece of theatre?Steve Waters is on stage already as the audience arrive. He is moving bricks between piles of bricks which look like wells. He begins to speak and presents a beautiful, simple insight into a character: he’s been feeling a bit low lately. But, he recognises his fortunes all the same. He feels low because of the state of the world today, and no doubt the gut reaction in the audience is to think on recent events, as well as climate change. There is a universal nod of agreement.
It starts with such promise. But after these opening lines, I’m afraid I largely tuned out and struggled to find a point at which to tune back in. Mumbled words pour forth. Words specific to a profession, hobbies and location follow. By the facts and figures about butterflies, bees and coast lines, I know that we are still talking about the environment. But members of the audience were finding opportunities to laugh which I had heard only as statistics. Was the piece just too intelligent for me? Should I have done some research before I came? I began feeling like the shy kid in the corner who hadn’t done their homework, and didn’t understand the class.
I fear that In A Vulnerable Place is indeed another piece of theatre that is trying to tackle a scientific idea, and instead comes off as a mind-numbing science lesson on a Friday afternoon. And the class stare out of the windows, too bored to even misbehave.
I picked out a few lines in the text that rang confident and true – “Avoid the unimaginable and imagine the unavoidable”. The message here is that if we confronted the state of water, food, global warming, the population increase and the preservation of our wildlife with this attitude, we would be in a more stable position. But we know this already, we don’t need more statistics in the form of theatre to understand. What theatre is good at is stories, and unfortunately Waters misses a golden opportunity here and falls into the lecture category. It is dry, it is unengaging, and I left with a more comprehensive image of the stage lights and fellow audience members than I did of the piece itself.