Rage, but Hope
Streatham Space Project
Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) campaign against climate change has, in a mere year of its existence, persuaded thousands to be arrested for acts of civil disobedience, caused the biggest increase in public concern about the environment and prompted Parliament to declare a climate emergency.
Stephanie Martin has constructed a series of monologues and one dialogue from her contacts with people involved in the struggle and others who are critical of it. If most of the early sections tune into some of the popular impressions of those involved in the movement, the later sections let us glimpse a more diverse class and ethnic mix of rebels.
The show is always engaging, mostly funny and generally sympathetic to the activists. It is also impressively performed by a cast that includes several actors who have spent time blocking the roads during the national rebellions and one who deliberately got himself arrested.
It opens with the middle-class character Gilly (Emma Davies), sitting centre-stage, recalling how she sat for hours in a central London action, trying to catch the eye of a policeman so that he arrested her and then later in the police station excitedly phoned her husband to say “I’m fine I’m in prison.”
Despite being arrested, many of the protesters have positive views of the police. XR at one point sent a message to local groups asking those in arrestee support to stop giving the police presents.
In response to being told by an XR activist in Covent Garden that “most police officers are quite reasonable people”, a young gay black man (Dior Clarke) responds with, “try being a black man”, adding his objections to “sending flowers to Brixton police station thanking them when black people have died there.”
Andy (James McGregor), who stands by his sign that reads “Homeless and Hungry”, describes feeling inspired in part by the respect he was getting from protesters camping nearby.
A year seven schoolgirl (Venice van Someren) tells us of her attempts to get her father to take the dangers of climate change seriously and get rid of his car.
However, the high point of the show comes towards the end in a very moving scene in which four of the arrestees rise in turn to plead guilty and explain their political reasons for breaking the law.
They include a teaching assistant (Venice van Someren) who had won an award for dealing with an emergency in her school. When asked if this court appearance will affect her employment, she says the school governors have supported her and the children at the school had raised money to pay for her fine.
Then there is the former detective sergeant (James McGregor), who explains to the court that “I believe the real criminals are in the highest office of government and at the head companies.”
Like many others, he has been driven to break the law by a corporate and political elite who believe the science but continue with policies they know will destroy the planet.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna