Homo Novus: International Festival of Contemporary Theatre
I gaze through the window from the comfort of a Latvian hotel restaurant, as a block of ice the size of a toaster falls three stories and smashes on the pavement at the feet of a horrified pedestrian. The ice's would be victim skids and scurries across the road, pulling at his lapels in a futile gesture of defiance whilst simultaneously looking up to the sky as though searching for a pigeon that crapped on his coat.
This is what happens when it thaws in Riga. Dangling daggers of ice come loose. Devastating loads of snow slide from roof tops and plummet to the ground where white powder is melting into grey slush.
Is it dangerous?
Hazardous enough for one young man to be earnestly intercepting strangers on the street, imploring them to be careful and waving a laminated warning that reads 'Danger, falling icicles!!'
Who knew the changing climate could pose such an immediate threat?
Well, a lot of people as it happens. And that's why I'm here in Riga at Homo Novus: International Festival of Contemporary Theatre for an Imagine 2020 event curated by Cape Farewell; co-organisers of ArtCOP21, a global festival of cultural activity that ran parallel to the UN Climate Talks in Paris, December 2015.
I'm giving a talk about Doppelgangster's contribution to ArtCOP, specifically Doppelgangster's TITANIC, which took place at La Générale (December 10, 2015), a former power substation and one time Nazi boot factory in the 11th Arrondissement.
Doppelgangster's TITANIC @ La Générale | Video by Sebastien Jamain
I'm intending to shamelessly riff on this popular icy metaphor as a way of reflecting on our current ecological crisis, global division, forced migration, sea level rise, sinking ships and climate violence.
In preparation I'm watching a video of myself, Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Rachel Helena Walsh bravely hurtle back and forth like fearless performers who neglected to learn their lines. We yell expletives, crash into carefully misplaced obstacles, and at one point Tobias breaks into a jaw-dropping rendition of 'My Heart Will Go On'; and all the while I'm wondering about Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and reflecting on what these potentially catastrophic political events mean for the Paris Agreement.
The central aim of that agreement being,"to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius."United Nations.
So, for those of you that don't know, this is what Trump is keen to backtrack on when he gets into the Whitehouse. The significance of this threat should be revealed more clearly by the response of national representatives gathering at COP22 in Marrakech this November.
While Trump's destructive ambitions are retrograde, and downright frightening, they resonate with the Conservative approach to climate change in the UK. In July 2015, Prime Minister Theresa May brazenly decided to abolish the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
"a major setback for the UK’s climate change efforts" says Ed Davey.
"Shocking news" interjects Friends of the Earth's Craig Bennett.
This uncertain commitment leaves me wondering how long it will take for the UK to ratify the Paris agreement.
Hopefully it will be signed and securely laminated before Trump sweatily arrives in the Oval Office and takes a "Brexit plus plus plus" approach.