James Huntrods
VAULT Festival


Cause starts with uni student Tess (Rebecca Tebbett) wanting to trash her boyfriend Nick's (Lewis Hart) cherished childhood Lego set to post on her eco campaigning vlog as an act of solidarity with Greenpeace.

So starts an hour of absorbing investigation into the cost of effecting change.

Writer James Huntrods kicks off with the basics and some familiar lightweight arguments go back and forth between Tess and Nick covering ardency, apathy and hypocrisy, laying the groundwork for when the stakes get higher in the next section of the play.

The neatly rectangular carpet of Baśka Wesołowska's set design is pulled apart to create jagged-shaped sheets of floating ice re-siting the action in both place and time.

Tess is now on a boat to the polar region. It is a campaigning trip sailing in the wake of the Greenpeace activists who, five years earlier, grabbed the world's attention attempting to reach Russia's Prirazlomnaya drilling platform in protest at the environmental damage caused by Arctic oil production.

On board, Tess meets two veteran campaigners, Miles and Demi, who befriend her, their cynicism contrasting with Tess's naïvety and declared willingness to die for the cause.

Miles continues to believe in bold actions and as the three of them talk, the trip they are on to mark the five-year anniversary of the Artic 30's attempted media grabbing action looks feeble by comparison and Miles ups the ante.

With Tess, he talks the talk about a scheme he has to block a tanker, Tiananmen Square Tank Man style, when they get to Prirazlomnaya which Tess will record for her vlog, but, in the event, it is Tess alone who carries out the Arctic 30 tribute stunt and, like her heroes, ends up in a Russian jail on a piracy charge.

Facing a 15-year prison sentence, the stakes rise again and the play takes another turn, with American lawyer Lorna (a strong performance from Lanna Joffrey) saying it how it is: "I get this is your big moment, but this is my Tuesday".

This final third of the play is the strongest and dare I say the most fulfilling in that what you have been expecting comes to fruition. It is also the most clearly delivered, the first two sections being marred by dialogue getting lost due to in the round staging in an echoey tunnel.

For the denouement, the ice sheets have parted still further, the growing cracks symbolic of more than just the breaking up of the polar ice cap.

Tess has hit the headlines but has achieved little to advance the cause. The media, social and otherwise, is going through the motions—the Russians to discredit her, the red tops to find a sex angle and the conspiracy theorists to speculate—then quickly moves on to the next story.

The situation leaves Tess with little choice but Lorna's proposed "tactical retreat".

It's a tragic, truthful ending. No matter how right, the best intended actions will be diminished by the media and reconfigured by those with interests to fit their own agenda, but as Huntrods puts it, "since when did being right matter".

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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