Baked Alaska theatre tour: review

Posted in: Comment
Date posted: 21 September 2015

Scene from Baked Alaska: three actors and a duck.

Operation Noah chair Nicky Bull was at the premiere of Baked Alaska. This is her response.

On 16 September I attended the public opening night of Baked Alaska at the Friargate Theatre in York. As Chair of Operation Noah I was involved in some of the planning meetings held with Riding Lights over the last few months, so I did have an idea of some of the storylines and the overall tone and message of the piece. However, I really had not much more idea than any of the other theatregoers about what an absolute treat I had in store.

The Friargate is a small intimate space seating only about 80–90 in an unadorned black box of a room with tiered seating. As a result, all our attention was focused on the four actors and on the brilliantly clever and versatile set that became in turns a suburban bedroom, a tropical island, a boardroom, a floating village in Bangladesh – and more. With swift and clever changes of costume, expression and accents the four actors were transformed into a host of characters, some of whom we encountered at more than one point in the play.

Running to just over two hours with only a brief interval, this was an amazing feat of stamina and energy by the touring company – the four actors and their technician – who, over the next two months, will be visiting almost 50 venues throughout the UK.

Baked Alaska, subtitled Time to Change the Temperature, draws together an ensemble of stories from around the world about people living with the unpredictable effects of climate change. The overall message is clear and hard-hitting but this is no bleak piece of doom-laden drama – there are catchy songs with extremely witty lyrics and there is humour throughout.

As a review by the Diocese of York said, ‘It seems incongruous to call a show about climate change fun, but Baked Alaska is. There’s also a sense of tension and unease throughout the evening: not drummed up by any artifice, but from the realisation that all of us in the audience are affected by the topics we are watching on stage. But the real power of this show is the way the audience are enabled to take action. We’re not left feeling impotent by the issues raised.’

The York Press reviewer summed the evening up accurately by saying that the play has a serious message ‘pushing through the laughter’ and that ‘the cast’s comedic antics deliver this important message through satire and metaphor with both humour and impact.’ In this, Riding Lights have absolutely succeeded in fulfilling the challenging brief with which they were presented.

Thanks are due to the talented scriptwriters, Paul Burbridge and Jonathan Bidgood, and to the whole company for all that they have done to bring this powerful piece of ‘eco drama’ to the stage – it is touring until 22 November, so do get along to see it!

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