STAGE REVIEW: The Wicked Problem @ ARC, Stockton (16.11.22) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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At the back of the stage a man is peddling a bike. The bike is connected to some sort of energy storage capsule and it looks as if he is charging it up. The stage is set and the future is Ergon, the green solution to the climate crisis. The man is called Alex and he is on trial for breaking climate law. We, the audience, are the jury.

The Wicked Problem is a thought-provoking piece of theatre. The year is 1961 and climate change is escalating out of control, major cities are under water and there are millions of climate refugees. They are being kept out of the country by barbed wire and armed soldiers. Ordinary people are suffering. Alex has lost his job after the ban on fossil fuels, his mum is dying and his family is starving and cold. He breaks the law to help his family and his community. We are asked to decide whether he is guilty and should be punished or should be pardoned.

Three actors play Alex, the defence and the prosecution. The defence on the left and the prosecution on the right, Alex sits on a stool in the centre of the large, roped off square. He gives his story, before transforming into a string of witnesses, each giving their testimonial and story in turn. Clever staging, props, effects and the use of audio-visual recordings bring the debate alive. This is very much fiction, but it feels very real. Perhaps because it feels like it just might be possible. The facts reel across the screen, about how areas of deprivation are the worst affected, how the richest 1% contribute more to climate change than the poorest 50%. Should what happens in other parts of the world even matter to us?

Then the lights come up and the spotlight is on us. The verdict no longer seems clear cut. There is a lot of discussion amongst the audience and I can’t help but notice the similarities between Alex’s situation at home and that facing many people as part of the current cost of living crisis. “Is it so wrong that he was able to find a solution?” is balanced against “but, he broke the law”. We close our eyes and vote. The verdict is close. Alex is guilty.

Ergon Theatre bring real, relevant issues to the heart of theatre. Important conversations need to happen for positive change, let’s start talking.

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