The Voices from the Reeds performance took the audience on an environmental journey around the UEA Lake and Norfolk’s rich ecological history through a series of dramatic readings from Professor Steve Waters’ playscript.
The first dramatic performance encouraged the audience to engage in the relationship between gender, sexuality, and the natural world, an intersection often overlooked in historical environmental academia. As contemporary audience members, we could draw upon our own knowledge of the relationship between the patriarchy and climate destruction, whether through current political complacency as witnessed in summits such as the recent COP26, or even the rise in pollution as a result of rapid industrial revolution.
In the performance, raw emotion provided a gateway into the uncomplicated appreciation of nature rather than the alienation which a patriarchal scientific lens often brings. To conclude her piece, she left the audience with an incredibly poignant comparison: “Do we always stand in men’s shade? Don’t the brightest and strongest plants stay in the light?”
Harmonized by birds singing as the performers captivated our attention, the wildlife of the UEA Broad provided the perfect backdrop for a range of brilliant performances. Many pieces had a clear thematic or political approach, including anti-capitalism, mental health, education and loneliness. This gave the performance an episodic feel whilst remaining cohesive, engaging a variety of interests in the conversation about climate change.
Each theatrical rendition was a part of something much bigger, as are each individual. A moment from a particularly moving performance highlighted this: “we are participants in such great mysteries.” In What Peat Remembers, we visited the 1920s through the perspective of stratigrapher Margaret Godwin. Her focus on the life evidenced within the particles of the soil provided a sense of perspective that encouraged a level of awareness in the audience as we stood against the elements and observed the beauty of the natural world. The final performance of the evening provided a contrast to this serenity, incorporating technology to provide an immersive sensory experience as we reached the present-day narrative, the conflict between attainable green solutions and the political spin we are often offered.
The characterful interpretations of Waters’ text brought to life standout messages, including thoughts especially relevant to our modern-day battle against climate destruction. As we walked away from the Lake’s bitter wind and back to our insulated homes, we were left with the renewed understanding that “maybe the sea cannot be caged”, and subsequently wondering: “Why, with all the science, did we still go wrong?”