The Arts
Apr 2015

An Educational Play About Climate Change

The Premiere

Recently the Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change (MoCC) on CUHK campus presented an original play titled The Drama of Climate Change, jointly with renowned local theatre group, Chung Ying Theatre Company. The play premiered at the Zero Carbon Building in Kowloon Bay on 6 February, and aims at increasing public understanding and awareness of climate change and its repercussions. The premiere attracted an attendance of 135, consisting of members from the government, green groups, tertiary education institutions, as well as secondary and primary schools.

The Drama

The one-hour play was produced by Chung Ying, an expert in the theatre-in-education approach, with input from the museum, and is performed by actors from the theatre troupe. It's packed with both practical knowledge and fantastical elements to appeal to students and inspire them to take action to reduce carbon emission and adopt a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. It was also scripted with three interactive sessions that encourage viewers to contemplate and respond to questions about climate change and the environment.

In the play, the protagonist, a journalist named Ah Yuen at Science Daily, has done research on climate change and is very worried about the future of the world. He tries to warn the public about its imminent threat in his articles. But his editor's attitude has been dampening. Frustrated, Ah Yuen considers giving up. A robot named Omega appears and encourages him to carry on his efforts. Omega proceeds to show him all the devastation that climate change will bring to the world in the next 50 years.

Now determined to make a change, the journalist lectures at secondary schools and universities about the topics closest to his heart. During these lecture sessions, the actor playing Ah Yuen poses real questions about global warming, carbon reduction, and energy to the students, such as whether it saves more water to shower or to bathe in a tub, and whether it saves more energy to turn off the TV with the remote or by pressing the 'off' button on the TV set. Information on possible solutions to these questions is also provided.

Ah Yuen then returns to his alma mater to talk to the current university students. At this point, three members of the audience are invited to go on stage and role-play in an office setting to show how offices can be more energy-efficient.

Ah Yuen gets ready to depart for the Climate Change Summit in Paris. He bumps into his mischievous nephew at home. Ah Sun is a computer-savvy young man, who is nonchalant and full of misconceptions about changing his high-carbon lifestyle – 'The heat will kill me if I don't turn on the air conditioner.', 'I prefer to spend my time bidding for stuff online.' Ah Yuen explains patiently to Ah Sun and succeeds in persuading him to reconsider his assumptions and try to change his behaviour. Ah Sun calls upon his massive network of online friends to help suggest ideas for a greener lifestyle – this is the third interactive session. The actors ask the young viewers to tell them how they could lighten their carbon footprint in terms of dress, food, lodging, and mode of transport.

Words from Chung Ying

'Climate change is a very sober topic, so it may not readily appeal to primary and secondary students. Besides, some of the details may seem unfamiliar and difficult, while others, such as we should save water, may seem all too familiar. The challenge was how the script could strike a balance and package everything in a way that is attractive without detracting from the theme. I also discussed with the designer how to make the costumes more interesting to young students. Our audiences are school kids, including those from special needs schools, across a broad age and intellectual ability spectrum. We have to make adjustments to every performance if the play is to be understood and enjoyed by all. For example, the actors have to deliver their lines more slowly when the audience consists of special needs students. As the director, I need to communicate with the actors and prepare them psychologically for these changes in rhythm and energy.'

Director, Chow Ka-fai

'Our target viewers are primary and secondary students, and some grown-ups. This means that at rehearsals, we had to make decisions concerning what information to present, how to dramatize the messages we wanted to convey, and how to simplify certain details without affecting the overall meaning, to make sure no one, especially the younger viewers, would lose interest during the performances. That said, the primary students often surprised us with what they knew. We asked them to suggest ideas for a greener lifestyle and one of them mentioned painting the walls with non-toxic paint. This was something that hadn't occurred to us at all. When asked how they commuted to school, one of them whispered almost reluctantly, 'In my parents' car.' This shows that the child engaged in introspection and was aware that driving is not a low-carbon option.'

Lead actor, Roy Kan


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