Duncan Macmillan and Chris Rapley
Royal Court Theatre Downstairs

Chris Rapley in 2071 at the Royal Court Theatre Credit: Stephen Cummiskey

This brief run of 2071 sits very oddly on the Royal Court's main stage, at a venue renowned since its inception as a writers' theatre.

Not only is this work not a play, it is only rendered barely theatrical by a black and white wall of data and images designed by Luke Halls, generated by computers and projected behind Chris Rapley.

Mr Rapley is a distinguished climate scientist who has run both the British Antarctic Expedition and the Science Museum, amongst other equally high-powered roles. He is currently the Chair of the London Climate Change Partnership and Professor of Climate Science at University College London.

He must spend a considerable proportion of his time delivering learned lectures on important issues to highly-qualified audiences filled with climate science specialists.

It seems a fair bet that his experience of working in the theatre is rather less than that of the average child actor, which makes this event a calculated risk for all involved.

For 70 minutes, the academic sits comfortably in an armchair, looking exactly like a university lecturer and tells his audience about the iniquities that we and our rulers around the globe have been and continue to perpetrate on our innocent planet and its surrounding spheres.

Aided by a microphone, the speaker builds up a compelling story starting with explanations of terms then moving from the distant past to the nearer past and finally, in by far the most compelling section of the evening, lambasting the failures of politicians across the last three destructive decades.

The clear message is that, through emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon, we are taking the globe towards uncharted waters when water itself will be at a premium since, by the end of the current century, unless drastic steps are taken, droughts, floods and other cataclysmic disasters will threaten life and our enjoyment of it.

The solution is simple but unpalatable. Cut down on fossil fuels and much else. By doing so, the damage won't be reversed but neither will the situation deteriorate even further.

It might be a good thing if the climate atheists close to Government were obliged to trek along to Sloane Square (where they probably feel at home anyway) for a big dose of the Rapley shock treatment.

In reality, the main bulk of visitors to this presentation are likely to be Mr Rapley's fellow travellers. The average visitor will probably find a good proportion of his lecture indigestible but may well feel better for listening to the closing message with the possibility of redemption if enough people are willing to make a stand.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher

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