Do You Love This Planet?
Tristan Bates Theatre
The poetic drama is a bit of a rarity these days. Writers drawn to the poetic prefer to give their scripts a poetic tilt rather than risk the many dramatic dangers of the full poetic.
Alexander Matthews regards his play Do You Love This Planet? as a poetic drama. It centres on the issue of climate change.
Rachel (Lucy Lowe) is a public relations official for FFF (we never hear what the initials stand for) who are to launch the new company slogan of “Do You Love This Planet?” which they hope will help their campaign for a more low carbon economy. During the launch speech, she expresses doubts about FFF’s interests in nuclear and this gets her the sack. From that point, she decides to dedicate her time to campaigning against the nuclear solution to climate change.
The show opens with video of the current threats to the world projected onto six huge slabs at the back of Adrian Gee’s fine minimal set. But the characters are little more than mouthpieces for some very strange sentences, the story is slight and some of the sequences in the play just a little bizarre.
It begins with Rachel in bed with her partner Schumann (Chris Porter) whom she asks, “Do You Love This Planet?” As they chat about this, Rachel’s son Alan (Christian James ) arrives filming them on his phone, saying that he is “wearing out my admiration for your nudity by acting on it.” He explains that “my Oedipus complex is in full swing.” Although she seems mildly irritated at this, she soon jumps on his back, allegedly to get better phone reception, though there are many chairs she could stand on.
When she speaks at the campaign launch, Alan tells Schumann he is filming her cleavage and soon after he gets thrown out of school for kissing a teacher and the head. Weird though this and other things seem, they are not as distracting as the dialogue which could have you leafing through a dictionary rather than watching the play.
Rachel says “we mustn’t let down the birds and the trees,” warning that “Armageddon feeds of inattention.” Schumann is wisely dismissive of a lot of what she says, commenting, “she has interpreted her licence too licentiously.” I found I agreed with a character who observes that it's “all becoming non sequiturs.”
It's no wonder she gets sacked, though not before she tells her boss, “you are masquerading your euphemisms.”
There are good reasons the poetic drama fell out of favour. The great theatrical period of Shakespeare inflicted centuries of torture on the English language by writers trying to resurrect verse theatre and having almost all of it locked away for cruelty.
Don’t put your characters and dialogue in a straitjacket. Let them breathe, or you will have your audience screaming to their beds.