“Beautiful, isn’t it? Beautiful!”
Riding Lights Theatre Company is used to tackling big subjects, and there’s no bigger subject than the Earth itself. Using the world as a set and the Milky Way as a backdrop, Baked Alaska is Paul Burbridge and Jonathan Bidgood’s examination of climate change, and a plea for us to change our ways while we still have time.
Performed by Jonathan Bidgood, Katie Brier, Edith Kirkwood and Ivan Scoble, Baked Alaska uses song, dance, puppets and dolls to tell the stories of people affected by climate change, from Mrs Average in Britain to Selina and Jahanara in Bangladesh. Burbridge and Bidgood take the small scene and use it to illuminate the global issues: a neighbour throwing rubbish into Adam Average’s garden, Lilly telling her grandmother Eve about the futuristic pod she lives in. This latter scene is especially poignant, with Brier and Kirkwood peering down at the audience from the top of the vertiginously raked stage. In the future, Lilly lives in a tiny pod, with all systems finely balanced in order to sustain her life. Eve wonders how Lilly can float through space like this, clinging to her life support systems so precariously. Lilly reminds us that we’re doing this on earth, right now.
One of Baked Alaska’s real strengths are the stories of people directly affected by climate change in Bangladesh, the island of Nauru, and the Niger Delta. The story of Nigerian students executed for protesting against oil spillages in the delta is heartrending, with the strong physical theatre in this scene perfectly demonstrating a violated landscape. In the story of deforestation and mining in Nauru the actors tear apart their circular set, and set the very earth wobbling to show the results of flooding in Bangladesh.