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Turning the Tide

A Carbon Fantasy in One Act

by Peppy Barlow

groupThe project was conceived as a novel way of communicating with a wider public over the issue of climate change and carbon reduction, increasing awareness and inspiring further action.

The script was commissioned to Peppy Barlow and was created with the help of a series of actors' workshops organised by Open Space.

The outcome, a 30-minute play, was directed by Yves Green with cast, Peter Sowerbutts, Mark Finbow, Meryl Keeble and Emma Martin.

Suffolk County Council and Suffolk ACRE helped in publicising the availability of the play and about 20 communities/organisations expressed initial interest in hosting a performance.

Firm interest came from 12 communities/organisations and performances – open to all members of the public - were arranged during the period March 17 – April 11 2010 as follows:
March 17 – Wenhaston
March 18 – Creating the Greenest County gala evening
March 19 – Sproughton
March 20 – Lavenham
March 21 – Halesworth
March 24 – Otley
March 27 – Boyton
March 27 – Blaxhall
March 28 – Haverhill
April 6 – Framlingham
April 11 – Woodbridge
April 11 – Bungay

In addition there was a preview performance in Needham Village Hall on Saturday, March 13.

We set out to attract as many people as possible to see a performance, estimating that about 700 would respond. Publicity was via Suffolk County Council, Suffolk ACRE, newspaper stories and a Radio Suffolk interview spot. Publicity within communities/organisations was the responsibility of the hosts but good supplies of posters and flyers were provided. Total audience was about 400, averaging about 30 per performance which often allowed a very intimate experience, with the audience grouped around the actors, only a few feet away. The biggest audience, in excess of 60 people, was at the Suffolk – Creating the Greenest County gala evening at Wantisden Valley. The smallest was at Haverhill Library where only a handful of people attended. The two other Suffolk library performances – at Halesworth and Woodbridge were particularly successful with good audiences and good discussions.

After show-discussions ranged across many issues, including personal/community carbon reduction initiatives and the impact of climate change on food, farming and wildlife. The most informed debate was among delegates at the Suffolk – Creating the Greenest County gala evening and the most heated debate was at Bungay where the accuracy of climate change forecasts was forcefully challenged.

The play was well received throughout the tour and the most frequent request was that we take the play into schools to influence the young, the people who will inherit the planet from the current generation.

Sue Gow – Wenhaston: “A number of people have asked me to express their appreciation ‘a lovely light touch’ ‘a fun evening’ ‘though provoking’ ‘stimulating’ ‘accessible’ ‘enjoyed the mix of music, song, dance and dialogue’ ‘made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions’ “
Andrew Cassy – Boyton: “The Boyton environment group discussed the play earlier this month. We’ve decided to focus on community space and local food production as our main campaign over the coming months and see what response this gets from the villagers.”
Maggie Grenham – Blaxhall: “The production was brilliant and each character is certainly someone I can recognise and bits of me in many of them.”
Charlotte du Cann – Sustainable Bungay group: “We all enjoyed the play and your coming to Bungay.”
Tony Barrett – Otley: “The feedback has been very positive. It was great the way the actors changed character. I liked the way they covered all the angles. Brilliant.”

Open Space Theatre Company response:
We feel the tour succeeded on a number of levels:
1 It provided a focus for climate change debate within communities/organisations
2 It addressed the issue in a novel and thought-provoking way
3 It increased public awareness of the issues involved
4 It stimulated personal and collective action (e.g. Boyton, as above)
5 It brought live issue-based theatre to new audiences

The script of the play has been published and copies will be available to people/organisations interested in promoting it as a tool for communities/schools to use in the climate change debate.
Two of the actors involved in the Open Space Theatre production have held a meeting with playwright, Peppy Barlow, to discuss the prospects for a further tour.

David Green
Open Space Theatre
7th August 2010






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