Open Court: Climate Emergency Events

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After the Flood
Created by Anthony Simpson-Pike in collaboration with Zoë Svendsen, Tassos Stevens, Anna-Maria Nabirye and Jess Mabel Jones

After a disaster, communities can come together in ways they don’t normally under the daily constraints of capitalism. But disasters can also be used to divide people and encourage authoritarianism. What if we didn’t leave it up to chance? What if we rehearsed for the future we want to see?

Over 12 hours a group of citizens will do just this. From 8pm until 8am the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre will become a shelter where we must stay as a result of a flood. From the evening until the morning, we will have to make decisions about how we live together and attempt to become the community we will need to be in the context of the climate crisis, rehearsing our vision live.

This is an experiment in understanding how theatre might offer transformation in responding to the climate crisis. It asks, how can theatres allow us to imagine new ways of living together? And if it is possible to rehearse for the future?

Anthony Simpson-Pike is a director, writer, dramaturg and facilitator with a passion for theatre centring on young people and communities. Zoë Svendsen is a director, dramaturg and researcher. Tassos Stevens is a director, stunt performer and actor. Anna-Maria Nabirye is an  actor, creative artist & director. Jess Mabel Jones is a theatre-maker, activist and actor.


What would make the world a better place?
Open to Young Court Friends (U26)

The Royal Court Young Agitators are running a workshop to explore and interrogate the Climate Crisis through the lens of young people, a view which has been so prominent in Climate Activism.

This workshop aims to support young people to meet other young people who are concerned about the environment and build peer community support. To think together and find an emotional outlet to explore eco-anxiety whilst considering the suggestion that “Art does not Serve”; exploring creativity and making work in response to the crisis.

“Art does not Serve” is a provocation from Zoë Svendsen’s Dramaturging the Climate Crisis. The Royal Court Young Agitators are theatre curators and creatives aged 16 – 23 who are interested in routes outside of performing. Selected annually the Young Agitators engage in an eight month programme which integrates them in to the heart of the building, builds a deep knowledge of the Royal Court, encourages arts activism, supports the development of theatre makers and provides pathways into the industry. The Agitators all receive dramaturgical training (similar to our Script Panel), facilitation skills, invited into rehearsals and techs of shows and expertise workshops with industry professionals.


Wage an Intervention
Created by Milli Bhatia, Philip Morris and Izzy Rabey

You have £1000 cash to spend on a project that will impact the effects of climate change, and one morning to decide how to spend it. The only caveat: you and all the other participants must agree on the choice.

This workshop engages directly in discussions surrounding global shared wage, delegation and financial responsibility in the context of climate change.

Three climate activists will each propose the best way to spend the money. If no decision is made by the end of the discussion, the money goes back to the bank. Throughout the workshop we hope to provoke dialogue surrounding the individual vs the collective in terms of instigating change; exploring the balance between compromise, opinion and responsibility.

This event is organised by recent and current Royal Court Trainee Directors Milli Bhatia, Philip Morris and Izzy Rabey.


A line from Lia Purpura
Created by Moi Tran

“We must put empathy first and foremost if we are to surmount the hyper issues of Climate Change.”

The detrimental effect that climate change inflicts on everyday intimacy and mental health goes under-acknowledged. As global “Climate grief” grows, it is leading to depression, anxiety and a state of climate paralysis; we must find new ways to share in and communicate environmentally-induced mental distress and address the lack of language for eco emotive communication.

A series of video screenings, live music and performances exploring a non-English language emotional perspective of loss and lament found in the intersections directly affected by our climate change crisis.


4pm – Video Screening of ‘My Paradise’ by Performance maker and Film artist Quynh Dong.

My Paradise ‘ is about an intermediate world – a model world with real people. A model world Dong’s father made (as an idea of an Asian paradise) serves as the stage for the video. From conversations with her father she learned what dreams he pictures in this paradise for himself and her mother – stories based on everyday life and the world of fiction Asian soap opera . The main characters in this video are Dongs parents.

Five stories depict everyday life in paradise: Flowers are watered, chickens are fed, people are strolling and riding on flying horses.

Dialogue is completely absent from the videos – only five pieces of music accompany the clips. Guitarist and composer Nicholas Erismann wrote commissioned pieces for all five videos, in the style of Vietnamese songs. The scenery of Paradise was photographed and the two protagonists recorded in front of a blue box.

5pm – Video Screening of Performance Film Digging a Hole by Moi Tran accompanied by live musical improvisation.

A Solo Action performance piece.
A Desire to reconcile a physical connection to the Earth.
A Marking.
A Pilgrimage.
A Exorcism.
An Exhaustion.
An Emotion.

6pm – Video Screening of Performance Film THE BOLERO EFFECT by Moi Tran accompanied by live musical improvisation.

‘Without the empowerment gained through music, it is impossible to keep the past alive in the present, or to recognise and respond to the realities that are transforming the present into the future’

Stephen Blum, Philip V. Bolman, and Daniel M. Neumen, eds., Ethnomusciology and Modern Music History
For the 3 months Moi Tran worked to create a multi faceted performance piece to include composition, noise, song, text and action with a local Hanoian community ensemble and creative team.

THE BOLERO EFFECT takes Bolero, Vietnamese populist music and collective song as a departure point to examine the complex transnational identity in the Vietnamese diaspora and homeland. Exploring music/song as a process of repair, a political intervention, a site for resistance and contest, a mechanism for communication, a document of social solidarity and conflict.

November 30th 2019 the premiere performance took place in a site specific location in the centre of Hanoi, Vietnam.

7pm – Sasha Ilyukevich and The Highly Skilled Migrants will play for 45 mins on the steps outside the Royal Court Theatre’s entrance.

London-based Belarusian Troubadour Sasha Ilyukevich and his band ‘The Highly Skilled Migrants’ create an incomparable brew of post punk electric energy and topical lyricism. Ilyukevich writes songs in Russian to capture the essence of Eastern-Slavic heritage and translates his lyrics into English share the nuances of language and emotion. His songs fuse Western and Eastern-Slavic sensibilities to bridge a historical divide and engage understanding between two cultures to reverse prejudice between East and West.

Moi Tran is a Vietnamese Artist, working in the intersections of Art and Performance. Moi is also the theatre designer of the Royal Court Theatre’s production of White Pearl and Rare Earth Mettle (upcoming).


Whatever it is, we’re in it.
Curated by Chris Thorpe

A first public sharing of text and live music from writer and performer Chris Thorpe’s The Methuen Drama Royal Court Theatre Climate Commission. The commission is a new environmental initiative in playwriting and was awarded to Chris in November 2019. Chris’ session, like the piece, will focus on the psychology of the emergency – how can we be realistic and honest without paralysing ourselves and others? Is hopelessness a useful stage in an ongoing process?

Alongside the text and music, there will be a public discussion with psychologists about how the human mind works (and doesn’t) when faced with events of an extreme scale; what happens when radical change becomes the new normal; and how we can be useful in a world where information itself might no longer be.

The Methuen Drama Royal Court Theatre Climate Commission was given to support a playwright to explore fresh ideas and links between the political present and the problems facing our environment today.

Oberon Books / Methuen Drama
Oberon Books is one of the UK’s most exciting independent publishers in drama and the performing arts, and recently joined Methuen Drama. Together they publish some of the most diverse and forward thinking drama, and lead the way in championing new writing, the best emerging playwrights and theatre companies, and supporting fringe and off-west end theatres. Methuen Drama will continue to support the commission under the new name of The Methuen Drama Royal Court Theatre Climate Commission.


Following discussion with the artistic team, we have decided to postpone Open Court: Climate Crisis events this month.

Each of these events invites clear headspace for discussion and broader thinking, and we feel that at this particular moment this will be clouded by the public health crisis around Coronavirus. We will reschedule when there is greater certainty for us all. If you’d like to be updated when the dates of events are announced, please join our mailing list here.



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