Promising two truthful new plays about the future of humanity in Climate Change, the Torch Ensemble land in Edinburgh next week from New York city, with aims to start an exciting, challenging, and introspective conversation about the existential challenges that the Climate Crisis leaves humanity facing. Comprised of Debating Extinction and The Trash Garden, The Climate Fables will alternate each performance between stories about a refugee couple deciding whether to have children on an inhospitable planet and a comedy inverting the ‘Adam and Eve’ story with the last two people on Earth.
We wanted to get to know the storytellers behind the piece, what kind of difficult conversations we need to have about the Climate Crisis and Climate Justice, and what exactly it means to have ‘Climate Grief’. We sat down for a pixelated pint with Writer-Director Padraig Bond to get to know more.
Catch The Climate Fables at Greenside @ Nicholson Square – Fern Theatre from August 4th to 19th (not the 6th or 13th) (14:00). Tickets are available through the EdFringe Box Office.
Jake: Hey Padraig! Your show The Climate Fables is described as “two truthful new plays about the future of humanity in Climate Change” – tell me a little more about each show, and what specifically makes them truthful.
Padraig: Hello Jake! So The Climate Fables are a series of plays I wrote to give audiences a chance to confront climate problems head on, so we know where we stand when shit hits the fan. I think of them as a rehearsal for climate change. The plays going up at fringe, “The Trash Garden”, and “Debating Extinction”, are only two of this larger cycle of dramas.
The Trash Garden is a comedy at the end of the world, performed by two expert clowns. It’s a reversal on the Adam and Eve story, the main characters are the last two people on Earth. The question in this play is how can we take the worst situation imaginable and make it a comedy. What’s the worst environmental/existential situation possible, and how can we find meaning and joy in it? And the answer to that appears to be through our relationships to each other, and our ability to imagine new worlds, and to to really, fully, play games with each other. So this play is really about people using imagination, friendship, and play to deal with the trauma of climate disaster. It’s what we’re doing when we do theater in the apocalypse.
Debating Extinction is fundamentally about whether or not it’s okay to have kids in the climate crisis. It’s a retelling of Rapunzel – a witch mother has her daughter captive, and her boyfriend is trying to break her out. The characters are climate refugees who have seen New York sink into the ocean, and are caught between the desire to keep humanity going, and to believe in humanity, or to sacrifice humanity for the good of nature. We’re asking if we can coexist with nature. It’s a debate. I’ve been really excited about the conversations this has struck up during our previews in New York. It’s a question we need to answer now, so we aren’t taken by surprise in a decade when things get worse.
So the truthful part of these plays is that they’re rooted in the questions and situations climate change is going to force us to grapple with – there’s no hiding or denying anymore. When you’re facing the end, how are you going to react?
Jake: The show aims to tackle the audience’s climate anxieties head on – what are you hoping people take away from it all?
Padraig: I originally wrote these plays in the pandemic thinking they would never see the light of day. They were a practice for me to deal with my own climate grief by facing what I feared and making a story out of it. Making it a comedy. Making it a tragedy. Making it a romance. I forced myself to study environmental science and get a real sense of what we were doing to the planet and what it’s going to do to us.
I hope audiences come out of our theater with a heightened state of climate awareness, and a sense of relief that they’d rehearsed for climate change in our theaters. I want them to come out of it feeling more prepared. There’s a history of these plays being performed alongside real climate disasters in New York. We did The Trash Garden during Hurricane Ida in 2021, and we did our New York previews this year during the Canadian Wildfires that enveloped the whole city in smoke. These were total coincidences, but their effect on our audiences has been real and alchemical.
Jake: The show was developed both by climate scientists and performers – tell us a little about the process of creating the show and how it has ended up here in Edinburgh.
Padraig: Theater and environmental science are my two life’s passions, and this project for me is about uniting them. In 2019 I marched in New York alongside Greta Thunberg, and that
experience sent me on a real journey to make my art solely about climate change. These plays were written in conversation with the environmental studies and geology departments at Hunter College – the school the Torch Ensemble met at. So the text itself is injected with a scientific understanding of what’s going to happen to the planet – and the specifics of how different locations in America will be affected. We talk in the plays about what will be underwater, what will become desert, and what areas will become a place for refugees to seek out.
The rehearsing of the plays was a full collaboration with the five members of The Torch Ensemble. We formed as a company with the explicit intention of going to Edinburgh Fringe, and that’s been possible because Greenside Venues has provided such an excellent home for us.
Jake: Tell us about your relationship with Edinburgh and the Fringe – have you been before and how are you feeling about it all now we are so close?
Padraig: I’ve been to Edinburgh before, and I loved it dearly. But this will be the entire company’s first time at the fringe. We’re tremendously excited. Theater has been in serious jeopardy in the United States since the pandemic, and we see fringe as a beacon of hope to generate new theater and to keep the torch lit. We’re honored to be a part of it, and we’re looking forward to seeing what other artists are coming up with, and what we can learn from them.
Jake: Given the themes of Binge Fringe, if your show was a beverage of any kind (alcoholic, non-alcoholic – be as creative as you like!), what would it be and why?
Padraig: The Climate Fables are a shot of espresso! They’ll wake you right up.