The crux of the issue for me really isn’t the show at all, it’s the marketing. Specifically, the audience to whom How To Save A Rock is marketing themselves.
Essentially, I feel like everything about this show would work so much better if it advertised and saw itself as a children’s show. The strangely anthropomorphic (it allegedly wrote a note with its paws, people) polar bear sub-plot? The light-creating bike? The audience participation? It’s perfect content for theatre directed towards children, just maybe not quite so much towards adults. That’s not to say that it isn’t easy to enjoy, but I personally would have felt actually more comfortable had I not been the target audience. In its current form, addressing an adult audience about these topics in this way does feel a little condescending.
If the show were to be marketed towards adults, then I think there would definitely be an argument for moving away from the fictional/‘dystopian hypothetical’ storyline altogether. The bits of it that are formed from the actors’ personal testimonies work really nicely, and could be extended and developed so much further. Additionally, the whole point is that climate change is a problem that we need to deal with right now. So why move it into the future, and why pass the torch over to fictional characters?
That said, some elements of the first person or real life sections didn’t sit all that well with me. The play takes the time to recognise that an obscene proportion of blame for climate change is directly and irrefutably attributable to 100 corporations, and then holds a hands up poll for who in the room has chosen or would now choose not to have children in the light of learning about climate change. If we acknowledge the relative powerlessness of the individual in comparison to the extreme potential for change wielded by those companies, I struggle to establish how it is possible to make that kind of a jump in logic.
I’d really like to see an alternative to the sign up sheet for an email newsletter on protests to attend. Perhaps information could be handed out, or cast members could be approached later? Street level protests are absolutely not an option for everyone, and they’re far from the only way to make a difference. I fall into the category of people for whom they’re not an option, but I still felt very real guilt walking out without handing over my email address, and that’s not really ok.
I genuinely really love the bike, because it felt like such direct commitment to the themes of the play itself. The lighting was often gorgeous and understated, making me think that this piece would work extremely well outside at night. The moment of puppetry was probably my favourite, and I wish that this had been extended more through the play.
I’m excited to see where How To Save A Rock goes, although I don’t really think it’s there yet.
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