This is more than a performance. It’s more than a story about migrants fleeing lands ruined by climate change. It’s also more than inviting a few kids on stage and getting the audience dreaming up funky slogans to challenge politicians. It certainly does all of that and a lot more too.
So, we start with drama. A black woman in a storm. She’s swimming and swimming with flashing lights all around. The floods are coming. Get onto the roof! Minimal props and plenty of violent sound conjures the growing storm. We visualise waters rising, winds blowing, homes swept away.
The heavy music and swirling lights create the atmosphere of fear and fleeing. We are asked to imagine a beach in Brighton. There are shipwrecked migrants. This includes a grandmother (Ruchika Jain) with her 13-year-old grandchild Jamie (Helen Vine). They need a tent, a place to camp, dry sheets, even for a night. The police arrive with loud hailers: “what are your grounds for immigration?” They left because of floods and fear. The music grows louder. “You are economic migrants – you are not allowed to stay.”
The drama of this story, devised by the Ensonglopedia company, segues into audience engagement – with children, parents and actors in an impromptu mini workshop. What can we do? What slogans can we invent? Bang your pots and pans! We are asked to make owl sounds, to fill the night.
The audience was asked: how can climate change be avoided? This was active and engaged theatre, agit-prop with plenty of children and parents involved in an on-stage workshop. There were plenty of cheeky, attractive puppets too. Get ready for bangs, music and flashing lights.
It is also worth acknowledging that the Bosco Theatre tent is an enormous wooden construction kit, originating from the Netherlands in 1910! The design does mean that noise from the road and bands playing nearby can, at times, intrude on the dialogue between actors, children and audience. Nevertheless, the three-sided stage helps to generate an alternative, close-up and welcoming atmosphere.
It was important to realise the drama team were keen to base this performance on credible scientific knowledge. Hence writer/director John Hinton and colleagues collaborated with several advisors and fact-checkers – from academic, charitable and other organisations working on sustainability – so as to record (and reduce) the environmental impact of theatre.
‘Puddle’ is much more than a performance. It’s theatrical but engaged in community. It’s serious about sustainability. It’s also hands-on shout out entertainment.
Photo by Laura Swaddle