Between Ben Yeoh and David Finnegan, there’s an impressive array of interests, knowledge and skills. Theatre, economics and climate change are among them. Their lecture-performance amalgamates these three topics into an engaging, informative and interactive presentation that gives a wide-angle view on what we can do to save the planet.
Though normally performed on stage, their live stream version still has a lot of engagement with the audience. A live chat on the right third of the screen allows viewers to answer questions, polls, and talk amongst themselves. The left two-thirds of the screen is dominated by the graphs, images and charts of a PowerPoint presentation, with Yeoh and Finnegan each in their own box in a corner of that space. Constrained by the range of their computer cameras and microphones, they represent each of us in all of this – an individual on their own has limited impact, but together we are mighty.
Though they acknowledge that there is vast inequality, that major corporations and world leaders bear the brunt of responsibility, and every eco-friendly choice seems to not be so eco-friendly after all when you consider it more broadly, their show is one of optimism. Its core holds a reassurance that cultural change can happen remarkably quickly in the grand scheme of things, and there are absolutely things we can do to help move it along. The pair perkily employ a few examples to back themselves up, which is comforting when faced with the frighteningly steep incline of the line that logs the kilotonnes of carbon in the air.
Both informative and entertaining, it leans more towards a lecture than a performance – at least it does in this digital form, what with Yeoh and Finnegan not able to be in the same space. Though there’s plenty to look at, there isn’t much scope for staging. However, the ability to chat with other audience members without disrupting the show adds an interesting dynamic that fosters a sense of inclusion and informality. It’s a welcome change from the typical, silent rigidity expected in most British theatres.
Given the success of TED Talks in their video format, lecture-performance seems particularly suitable to on-screen viewing. On the other hand, this flexibility is more permissive of a lack of theatricality, to the extent that it provokes reflection on how much the form is or isn’t theatre.