the political message is fine, but stop the chatter
In 2009, a year of inclement weather and political and economic turbulence, the Bush Theater premiered two interrelated plays by Steve Waters, collectively titled The Contingency Plan, which led audiences beyond the crises of the day to the challenge of the times: climate change. One of the original directors of the plays, Michael Longhurst, now runs the Crucible Theater in Sheffield and has expertly programmed an updated version, with On the Beach, directed by Chelsea Walker, running with Resilience, staged by Caroline Steinbeis. .
In his rewrite, Waters brings things back from the “near future” to “near now” – taking into account disturbing developments to convey how much more difficult the situation is today. In Resilience, the better half of the diptych, it’s hard not to feel the desperation, as Christopher Casson, actor rider Paul Ready’s ‘Secretary of State for Resilience’, recaps his briefing notes . His confidence is shattered and he is determined to do more, although Tessa, his new Minister of State, joins him for a Cobra meeting after a storm surge that partly inundated Bristol, thinks the Blitz spirit will be enough . Waters weaves the personal and the political into a compelling if verbose thesis about the state we find ourselves in.
The two plays take place at the same time, in different places: first a weekend in the spring, coinciding with this “abnormal flood”, then a jump in September, when something more worrying is brewing. In On the Beach, we meet retired glaciologist Robin living on the perilous coast of Norfolk with his long-suffering wife Jenny. Their son, Will, has returned from Antarctica, having followed in his father’s footsteps professionally, and now dismayed that the latter’s grim 1970s assessment – suppressed at the time – is coming to fruition.
Despite inherited suspicion from the bureaucracy, Will is persuaded to advise the government by his civil servant partner, Sarika – the couple rushing to Whitehall after the news from Bristol. In Resilience, steering the debate and dramatic stakes, we find Colin, the traitorous former colleague of Robin, senior climate adviser to the government, who always advocates the virtues of a methodical approach and a serene and temperate response. Cue a heated confrontation.
The actors struggle valiantly with this relevant but wordy material. Peter Forbes plays the older scientists well, while Geraldine Alexander, a little stuffy as the conflicted wife in one play, impresses as the fearsome Tessa in the other. Less would be more, however. Since time is running out and chatter is getting in the way, I would suggest hacking these two scripts into one urgent entity.
Until November 5. Tickets: 0114 249 6000; sheffieldtheatres.co.uk