Saving the planet through the power of theatre


Poster for the play POWER

A new partnership between theatre practitioners and researchers from Imperial College London uses theatre as a means of discussing climate change.

This Sunday sees the world premiere of POWER, a new interactive theatre piece that aims to help more people to take part in the conversation around climate change. The work is a collaboration between researchers at Imperial College London and the Nexus Theatre Company.

A key part of this production is the interaction of the audience with the scientific content Bethany Sharp Playwright and Assistant Director

The audience follows Jessica and Sandra, two ordinary women at a job interview with a twist. The two find themselves trapped in a room tasked with making all the decisions to ensure the earth survives the effects of climate change.

POWER is supported by Imperial College London’s Societal Engagement Seed Fund and it builds on a successful 2017 pilot project that created an early draft of POWER.

The POWER cast and crew rehearsing
The POWER cast and crew rehearsing

“Working on the original POWER in 2017 was an eye-opening experience, while training part-time to be an actor, I wondered how I could marry my passion for theatre with my research,” says Dr Zoe Harris, Research Fellow in the Centre of Environmental Policy and the play’s Director, “I was really happy with what we produced, but was it really the final, finished, product? I thought we could do much more.”

Dr Harris’s work is focussed on assessing the interactions between energy, food and land use in the light of climate change. The original version of POWER grew out that wish to combine her passion for the theatre with her love for the environment. Following that success she and the team created the Nexus Theatre Company to work on similar projects around global environmental change.

So Dr Harris and the rest of the Nexus team took the original piece and, using the seed fund’s support, developed a series of short, interactive theatre pieces with 16 – 18 year olds that are now part of the bigger, and better, POWER.

Over two months they ran workshops at a couple schools and sixth form colleges, with more planned in the future. This process allowed them to learn about the kind of content and communications that would work best. The whole thing was based on two-way dialogue allowing the students to engage with cutting edge research and scientists but also giving them a voice and say in shaping the play’s final form.

“Working with school pupils was invaluable for this project,” says Bethany Sharp, Playwright and Assistant Director, “A key part of this production is the interaction of the audience with the scientific content and the most effective method of doing this is not in a rehearsal room, but through working directly with others.”

The team that will stage the play this weekend includes Francesca Elise as Jessica and Kit Nicols as Sandra, both with extensive theatre experience from Shakespeare to modern pieces addressing the #MeToo movement. They are joined by Elle De Burgh and Sophie Bird, the personifications of ‘Environmental Change’, as the two women and the audience wrestle with the question, “How would you save the planet?”

Power will premiere this Sunday, 7 October 2018 at The Museum of Comedy in Bloomsbury with tickets from £7.


Neasan O'Neill

Neasan O'Neill
Faculty of Engineering

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