‘Rising’ was mobilising.
A call to action is occurring and it comes in the form of Playlab Theatre’s latest eco-thriller, ‘Rising’.
This new production – by five emerging playwrights: Hannah Belanszky, Madeleine Border, Emily Burton, Lauren Sherritt and Sarah Wilson – features interwoven stories that give voice to the looming ecological crisis our world faces.
Set somewhere in the future on a fictional island, and in a fictional country, ‘Rising’ shares stories about rising sea levels, climate change, conflicts between governments and rebel forces, and a society that’s on the verge of environmental, economical and social collapse. There are five plotlines running simultaneously and all have taken influence from the five powerful women who have penned them, urging viewers to rise up and take action.
Presented at Metro Arts’ new venue in West End, ‘Rising’ harnesses tension in the intimate black box space of the New Benner Theatre. Audiences descended underground to enter a smoky hazed area which felt otherworldly. Design by Ella Lincoln enhanced this concept and was truly remarkable. The set was dressed in various junk items (scraps, old technology, shopping trolleys, etc.) all coated in a silver spray paint. The littered stage was built like a boat ramp that led to a mirrored water’s edge; almost symbolically reflecting today’s society and the ongoing clutter.
The dystopian space allowed the director, Kate Wild, to play with the various set levels and inanimate objects. Scenes moved around the space urgently and purposefully to the encompassing sound design by Anna Whitaker. Lighting Design by Christine Felmingham cast colours onto sections of the set, transforming the landscape and scenes. Actors craftily moved between storylines, even stepping literally into the next scene. Like the script’s underlying message, the production never lost momentum.
Themes of environmental destruction, government and technological control, loss of individualism and survival flood the context of the production. This was masterfully reflected in the overall presentation, which then made understated elements like costume changes resembling new characters really resourceful. As such, choices were strategic. For example, wearing a skirt, using a water bottle, donning glasses or even putting on a jacket. It was a minimalistic touch that played out in precise choreographed movement.
Showcasing the talents of three incredible performers, ‘Rising’ allows for energetic and intrinsic ensemble work. All actors work collectively and cohesively to deliver varying perspectives on environmental issues. Chenoa Deemal brings a warmness to her performances, especially as an expectant mother, afraid of what world her baby is entering. Casually, she steps into a journalist whose values are questioned and even a daring rebel for a cause. Steven Rooke also navigates various roles, exacting the pressures of the world around him with a truthful portrayal. He bounds from a questionable news boss to a civilian caught amongst the movement for change.
Lastly, Ling Cooper Tang brings comic relief in her performances as a Finance Minister who’s about to enact the Institute of Economic Achievements (IEA) and a newly established field of dreams. Dialogue from this particular character is humorous, and easily reflects the conversations society may hear in the many press conferences held today, with image and propaganda messages presented on old televisions among the set. Cooper Tang adds emotional breadth as the doctor who assists with childbirth as the systems around her crash and medical support vanishes.
It’s hard to ignore the underlying political cries of ‘Rising’. The show fuels the mobilisation of its audience to become an active army and take climate change and environmental issues seriously. It’s a play not only of now, but of urgency and immediacy. Venture to Metro Arts before the plotlines in the production become ingrained as our disturbing reality.
Photography by Justine Walpole.