Just Stop Extinction Rebellion

With the subject of climate change polarising the nation, this new romantic comedy written by Brad Sutherland has arrived to raise the issue to audiences in London. However, the message is unclear. Is this a parody show to highlight the hypocrisy of those passionate activists, or is the mission to evoke audiences into helping to save the planet? We couldn’t decide either.

Currently at the White Bear Theatre, just a stones throw away from Kennington tube station, this unique play has been directed by Kenneth Michael and is showing until 10th February. Produced by Maiden Productions, it runs for approximately 110 mins (including an interval) during which you watch the conflicts of a local revolutionary group attempting to form the best strategies to combat climate change. 

Being an intimate venue with limited seating, this corner-focused performance space had two sides of spectators. The simplicity of the bare, white walls was accentuated by the lack of set and just five chairs, a yoga mat and a couple of blankets were used. The stage was occasionally lit with coloured spotlights and at times dimmed into darkness yet clean white lighting was used for the majority of the show. Maybe the plain setting was to keep within the sustainability theme or perhaps it was determined by the low budget allowance. Either way, I don’t feel like this hindered the performance, although adding thought-provoking posters in the background, might have been a simple and colourful way to add subtext.

The inclusion of background noises enhanced the atmosphere and helped to set the scenes, however they somewhat inhibited the ability to hear the actors clearly so having a quieter soundtrack would have been appreciated. I also enjoyed the voice clips of protesters and their personal struggles when campaigning. Those moments brought a sense of reality, a reflection of the pressing issues simmering under the fictitious storyline.

‘Until She Sleeps’ writer Brad Sutherland has a talent for penning comedies which focus on modern issues. The script for Just Stop Extinction Rebellion is witty, raw and full of those desired laugh out loud moments.

By referencing two extreme collectives in the title of this play, (Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, which are both UK based environmental activism organisations) I was surprised that the story lacked a strong opinion either for or against activism. 

The storyline focuses predominantly on two characters who meet at a local environmental activism group. Despite having contrasting personalities, they share unfortunate romantic circumstances and both possess a burning desire to help the planet. Their love story was a refreshingly true representation of the uncertainty and reality of romance.

The cast consisted of five actors and, alongside the two love interests Millicent (Louise Bangay) and Ben (James Price), we were joined by distinctive characters George, Henry and Heckler (all played by Stephen Riddle) Gaia and Petra (Orsolya Nagy) and Mrs Warboys (Hilary Field).

Bangay gave an undeniably warming portrayal of a woman in her early 50s navigating her way through a recent separation, whilst attempting to campaign most effectively. Her commitment to the role was thoroughly engaging as was following her journey of empowerment.

Another character who developed nicely was Riddle’s portrayal of George. Each of his interpretations of his characters were concise, carefully considered and served with great mannerisms.  The remaining roles felt underwhelming, one dimensional and lacked the same calibre of acting.

I enjoyed the average age range of the cast to be higher than I anticipated. Being centred around an older group, the play naturally posed different topics and character issues to steer through. It was extremely refreshing to see a romantic comedy differing from the usual teen-angst love story, and instead pursuing a more complex romance.

With such a strong potential for a compelling climate crusade, the overall execution is vague and frankly disappointing. Unfortunately the message implied was as polluted as the oceans, leading to confusion and no clear pathway to guide the audience to a conclusion. With some reworking this could be a valuable conversation-starter to highlight the issues debating the benefits or flaws of activism.

I’d say get rid of the multicoloured wig and 'just stop' the disco dancing, instead focus on the intended message at hand. There is an abundance of promise with this new show, yet it is being held back by unnecessary farce and a distinct lack of clarity.

Regrettably, I found the overall narrative a missed opportunity to encourage audiences to consider climate change, rather than mock certain stereotypes of eco-activists.

This show was reviewed on the 3rd February 2024.  Just Stop Extinction Rebellion plays at the White Bear Theatre, London until the 10th February 2024.  Tickets available here: Just Stop Extinction Rebellion | The White Bear Theatre

Review written by Lauren Atkinson


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