Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

Can climate change take a starring role?

by Kyle Plantz | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 9 April 2015 11:45 GMT

Tricia Kelly plays Bryony Weller, former leader of New Atlantis, as she instructs audience members to elect a new leader. PHOTO: ANDY FRANKOWIAK

Image Caption and Rights Information

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Could theatre be a way to break down complex issues of climate science and present them in an engaging way?

Creating a theatre performance about climate change could seem a daunting task. How do you break down the complex issues of climate science and present them in a way that is engaging, interactive, fun, and educational for the audience?

That’s what Barra Collins, artistic director of the LAStheatre in London, was aiming for when he created the show "New Atlantis".

The year is 2050 and a dwindling water supply is threatening the world. We, the audience, are agents of New Atlantis and have gathered to elect a new leader.

A short video introduces the world and then audience members are let loose to vote. But first they have an hour to speak to real scientists about the three different party platforms: Industry, Reform, and Defence.

Reform argues that it’s people’s behaviour that should change. Industry claims it can solve problems with technology by creating biofuels and geo-engineering. Defence is militarily focused, arguing controlling the seas is important for equitable distribution of water.

The scientists talk about their current research and how ways of dealing with climate change might play out. However, lurking in the shadows is Generation Alpha, young people who propose radical solutions and blame the current water crisis on the very scientists that are trying to fix it. They also seek supporters to join their efforts.

Audience members are free to float from one party to the other, asking questions of the scientists while learning about real research that is being conducted in the field and figuring out how to cast their vote at the end of the hour.

“Our show really allows people to see how they fit in this equation of climate change and what we can do about it,” Collins said. “They can leave the show (and) involve themselves in one of those discussions.”

Using immersive theatre creates a “lasting and meaningful experience” for audience members, Collins said.

“There’s a lot of the climate change conversation that can often sound like numbers and statistics, but theatre can give it a face,” he said. “You can tackle these huge important issues with a story and narrative at the heart of it.”


Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.