“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.

It seems incongruous to call a show about climate change fun, but Baked Alaska is. The songs in particular are very strong, with Jonathan Bidgood’s folk roots coming through. There’s also a sense of tension and unease throughout the evening: not drummed up by any artifice, but from the realisation that all of us in the audience are affected by the topics we are watching on stage. But the real power of this show is the way the audience are enabled to take action. We’re not left feeling impotent by the issues raised: the show ends with a chance to write to the MP in the constituency where the show is performed. We become part of the action, part of a better future.

“Are you ready for radical change, Adam?”

Eleanor Course, Diocesan Communications Officer

Baked Alaska is at Friargate Theatre, York on Wednesday 17th September, and on tour across England and Wales until 28th November. There’s more information and tour dates here: www.ridinglights.org/baked-alaska.