It's raining. Hard. Very hard, and the Met Office has just raised the warning level to Red. Five mismatched people are sheltering upstairs as they have been advised to do, but they cannot agree about how serious this is. It's just rain, isn't it? Or is it more evidence of the climate crisis? Or isn't all the personal stuff way more important?
This play was staged at The Spring Arts and Heritage Centre (formerly Havant Arts Centre), East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Caz (Charlotte)||Liz Donnelly|
|Stage Manager||Laura Sheppard|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Natasha Ryska-Onions|
|Lighting Design||Phil Hanley|
|Lighting Operation||Mike Jones|
|Sound Operation||Alex Eels|
|Flyer Design||Dan Finch|
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
The idea for this play started with a butterfly. On a warm summer's day, and a butterfly in the garden. Just the one? It bothered me. We have a buddleia in the corner of the garden, which when we first moved here thirty something years ago, would be frequented by not just numerous individuals, but several species at once. So I thought about writing a play about the climate emergency – surely the noticeable decline in insects is hard evidence of the scale of the crisis?
But nobody goes to the theatre for a lecture, so how best to approach this tricky subject? I concluded that inviting an audience to spend time in the company of real people who suddenly find themselves having to deal with an actual crisis – of the kind that is coming increasingly common, and who all have differing and sometimes conflicting responses to it, would be a way to perhaps open a conversation. The irony is that the play is in fact being overtaken by events even as we rehearse. We began rehearsals just as the first ever Red alert for extreme heat was announced, and the record-breaking 40+ degree temperature occurred. A couple of weeks in and we are been given alerts for thunderstorms, with high risk of dangerous flooding after the prolonged drought. My characters' stories are not simply fiction.
But still, it is only a play, and there is a certain irony in putting aside the worries about the actual state of affairs for the pleasures of working with such a strong and enthusiastic team who are putting their all into bringing the script to life. And who knows, maybe after the performance there will be a few more people thinking yes, we really do need to take this seriously.
Zee and Tony are holed up in their home as the rain pours down outside. And pours. And pours. And pours.
They have Tony's sister, Caz, as an unexpected guest and, before long, they're joined by their neighbour Irene and her wayward grandson, Josh. What follows as the rain falls is an argument against man's selfishness and wastefulness that is giving rise to the climate crisis. All the time their situation becomes more perilous as mud-slides from the hill behind their home threaten to engulf them.
Penrose darts easily and effectively between serious debate and some light, humorous asides and is supported by a very able cast.
As Zee and Tony, Erin Offord and Roger Niven give a very truthful picture of a marriage; it's not all sweetness and light and while their love is believable their opposite views of where the world is going and how to rectify the situation gives rise to believable tension. The bad feeling between them is not helped by the presence of the light-heartedly antagonistic Caz, a rather wonderful performance from Liz Donnelly. Occasionally, just occasionally, Donnelly will signal her upcoming punchlines which can deflate the moment, but when she's spot-on – much more often than not – she's joyous.
As neighbour Irene, Janette Evans gives probably the most rounded performance of the evening. Her last monologue in particular is warmly delivered and her love/loathe relationship with her self-serving grandson – the very watchable James Andrews – is a fine piece of work from both.