I was planning to see one of the first performances of Greenland however I had to re-arrange my tickets and ended up seeing one of the last few performances of it. I’ve followed the comments and reviews others have made of this play, including chatting to a few others that have seen it too. I was looking forward to forming my own opinions.
I was interested in this piece for several reasons, firstly the subject matter is something that I feel is of great importance. I commend The National for comissioning a piece to contribute to the debate on climate change. I was also interested to see a collaborative piece of writing as this again was something new for me to experience.
Primarily though it was due to having seen and enjoyed Welcome to Thebes last year at The National and seeing that Moira Buffini was one of the writers of this piece I wanted to go and see it on the strength of her contribution. Her contribution was strongly felt as the references to Greek myth and theatre came throughout the play.
I left the theatre and have spent the night pondering on what I saw. Firstly this piece has greatly challenged me. I like to think I’m a fairly environmentally conscious individual, but just as one of the characters in the play keeps succumbing to 21st Century Western Society living, so too have I. We as a species are destroying our planet. It’s a sobering thought that is powerfully brought into razor sharp focus with this piece. As one of the characters wryly observes, “It’s not the end of the world, the world will continue, it’s the end of us, humankind”. I’ve come back home with a renewed vigor to try and be more green and aware than previously. Regular readers of my blog know that one reason I go to the theatre is to be changed. This play certainly gave me much food for thought. I trust that the changes I make will continue.
Quite a few of the criticisms of this piece that I’ve read have accused it of being too “preachy”, I didn’t feel it was. I felt it was making a point, and perhaps rather bluntly at times, but I was kind of expecting that, this is a piece with a point, it makes no bones about it.
Theatrically this is a very interesting piece. There’s clever use of lighting, projection, and staging throughout the piece. The highlight is the polar bear, which is an adroit piece of puppetry. I also like the way the height of the Lyttleton theatre’s proscenium arch stage was used, the physical space of the whole stage was used and gave this piece a much larger feel.
What I did find was that this clearly felt like a collaborative piece. Each of the characters and scenes, seemed quite different and it did almost feel like each of the writers had written their own scenes and then they’d worked out a way of linking them loosely together. It did feel jagged and bitty in places rather than homogenised, as I was expecting the piece to be. I’d be fascinated to hear more about how the writers Moira Buffini, Matt Charman, Penelope Skinner and Jack Thorne found the whole experience of writing this piece.
I also felt that this is a piece that would continue to evolve and adapt as it is such a contemporary subject. A mention was made of the Japanese disaster, and so it was good to see that the writers were keen to keep this piece as up to date as possible.
I think this was a successful attempt by The National to stage a piece of contemporary and creative theatre, with a clear socio-political message. I’d be interested to see if the writers collaborate again, I imagine that if they were to, their next piece would build on the strong foundation they’ve created with Greenland.