It takes a lot to combine improvisation, music, acting, storytelling, audience interaction, and a collection of panellists into a show worth seeing. But that’s exactly what Melbourne Playback Theatre Company did, in Our Climate.
Our Climate was a theatre experience unlike any I’d seen before. It involved a variety of different experts in their field, all sharing the same goal: to try and educate the general public about the impact of climate change, with their ultimate long term goal to reverse the impact of climate change. As an audience member for this show, the vibe really was something I’ve never felt before. The audience participation was extremely motivating and as the audience participation continued, I realised I was surrounded by people with a true passion for change.
The night began with four panellists who each gave a speech about climate change – David Karoly (scientist), Marita Rose (author & activist), Isabella Morand (350.org organiser), and Stephen Bygrave (CEO of Beyond Zero Emissions). Following their speeches, the panellists moved into the audience and the organiser of the night, Danny Diesendorf, took over. Then the real theatrics began.
Whilst the stage was being set, two instrumentalists set the scene, playing a combination of instruments (mainly violin), and created an interesting piece of music which set the mood for the next hour or so. This was proceeded by four actors, all dressed in black, sitting on blocks in the middle of the stage. This gave it a more personal feel – no extravagant costumes or set, just four people in black, sitting on a stage.
Diesendorf told the audience to shout out words about what they were feeling after hearing the speeches from the panellists. He then went around to a few choice people, asking them to explain what they’d said a little more, and then indicating to the actors how they should perform it. Sometimes it’d be a song, sometimes they’d make a moving shape – it all depended on the word and Danny’s direction. Words such as ‘crumbling walls’ and ‘hope’ provided powerful inspiration for these improvising actors, who seemed to fall in sync with each other straight away.
For the last part of the evening, Danny Diesendorf asked the audience to think of something that has happened to them – a story they could tell – about a relationship that was impacted by Climate Change. He then asked some people up on stage, who would then tell their story, and the four actors would act out the story as best they could. A particularly powerful story was the last one of the evening – a story about self-satisfaction and greed. The actors’ improvisational skills were truly exquisite, and they all worked together and complemented each other brilliantly.
The talent in this show really was extraordinary. From the actors who improvised the entire show, to the instrumentalists who created the mood for every scene without fail, to the panellists who were obviously incredibly passionate about what they were speaking about. Every part of it was perfectly well done. Even the technical side; though there may have been comparatively less technical requirements, the crew obviously knew what they were doing, and the lighting especially helped to set the mood for the actors and the scenes that were being portrayed.
Melbourne Playback Theatre Company are a visionary company who truly bring a new light to theatre. Though this was the first show of theirs that I’ve seen, it certainly won’t be the last.