Theatre / Bristol old vic

Using theatre to tackle the climate emergency

By josie scott taylor, Friday Jul 12, 2019

The biannual celebration of Bristol Old Vic’s year-round artist development programme, Ferment Fortnight is the perfect opportunity to see how the cogs of an artist’s creative process turn. This time around, there are two pieces tackling climate change, Vigil and Sequel.

Vigil, by Tom Bailey, is a solo piece that explores what is happening with the current mass extinction of species resulting from climate change.

“Extinction is a very challenging topic and it isn’t particularly fun or inspiring for theatre audiences. I’m trying to address a problem through a fresh narrative to get the audience to comprehend what is happening,” says Tom, who has been making theatre pieces revolving around the theme of climate change for six years.

“We’re living through the sixth mass extinction of life on earth and it’s happening faster than any other mass extinctions before because of climate change.”

Tom was inspired by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Feeling “urgently compelled” to create a piece of theatre about it, he realised that the list was becoming significantly longer as time went by.

His show is about “a guy looking at the names on this list, taking the audience on a tragicomic journey exploring the emotions it evokes”.

“My piece tries to comprehend the scale of extinction, which can be hard to get your head around”

Kay Michael’s Ferment Fortnight show, Sequel, also addresses the global climate emergency. Find out more through her Twitter page.

It’s about “our relationship to the collapse of civilisation, death and the wild”, Kay tells Bristol24/7. “I call it part-performance, part-event because it’s not really theatre in the traditional sense. There’s very little illusion in it, I hope it will be quite ‘real’.

“At the end I invite the audience to join me with dinner, bringing us closer together. There’s also an element to it that’s quite wild  that I hope will bring us in closer connection to our relationship with the earth,” she adds.

Sequel addresses the climate reality, inviting people to stay with the difficulty and ask themselves what it means to be alive in these changing times.

One of Kay Michael’s previous shows

Kay was inspired by the recent injustices we are seeing throughout the world as a result of climate change such as the recent European heatwaves, the business-as-usual approach to deforestation and the activism of Extinction Rebellion and the worldwide student strikes.

Kay adds: “I’m endlessly inspired by the natural world right now.”

Sequel is being performed on July 17 and Vigil is being performed on July 18. For tickets and more information, visit

Read more: Mayor announces action plan for tackling climate change

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