Last Thursday, the Dublin Theatre Festival, the oldest specialized theatre festival in Europe, returned to life, allowing theatre audiences to enjoy the live performance again after being deprived of it due to the coronavirus pandemic last year.
In fact, the festival did not stop, as it was one of the few theatre events in the world that was keen to present a virtual edition, but the theatrical experience, live performances, and personal communication is what gives theatre its special status and makes it a unique art.
Truly, the Dublin Theatre Festival is unique in its ability to organize a large international theatre, and it also has a rich history and has hosted the work of the world’s most famous artists, along with showcasing the work of major Irish playwrights such as Sean O’Casey, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. The festival used to play a dual role as a window on the world stage, introducing almost every great theatre artist of the late twentieth century, as well as being a unique global platform for Irish art. It is one of some key post-World War II events established to foster tolerance and cultural understanding between nations. Over the past five decades, the festival has become a crucial part of Ireland’s cultural landscape.
This year, the Dublin Festival presents a new type of theatre that theatre companies often overlook. It is theatrical works that address environmental issues. To a large extent, the reluctance to produce such works is due to the high cost of production, especially through live performances, and to the public’s lack of interest in such works. Despite this, the Corona pandemic has made environmental issues at the top of the topics that must be seriously addressed as they are related to human life on this planet. That’s why this year’s Dublin Theatre Festival has two shows focusing on biodiversity and the climate crises that the world is now facing in a very serious way.
The first stage performance is Brokentalkers’ Rising, a visual installation and audio performance that explores climate change from the perspective of a young Dublin woman who lives near water. The makers of this work assert that the lack of emotional engagement is one of the reasons why people do not fully take into account the societal change required to resolve these twin crises. Rising is about a young Dublin woman who lives on Pearse Street and talks from the future about what really happened with rising sea levels. The show invites the audience to take a stand to save the planet by discussing the climate crisis from an individual perspective.
The second theatrical performance is also Brokentalkers’ ROOT which explores how Ireland came to have the lowest forest cover in Europe and what the Irish people can change this situation. In fact, the most important thing about this show is that it coincides with forest fires in Turkey, Greece, and California, where it is no longer possible to ignore what is happening to the planet. Moreover, the show not only presents information about trees in the environment with statistics and data but examines them in an abstract way that excites the audience as the show explores what it would be like if humans became trees and trees to be human.
Although both productions are produced by the same company, such unconventional theatre forms play an important role in broadening new conversations about the environment and making people more empathetic and aware of environmental problems. This year’s Dublin Festival assures us that artwork can bring something different to environmental issues than endless political and scientific debates. Theatrical performances and artworks, in general, can offer people an alternative way to view things and engage them on an emotional level. Certainly, raising awareness among the masses in a simplified way that provokes their feelings is the last hope to save this planet.
Dr. Marwa El-Shinawy: Assistant Prof. at International American University for Specialized Studies (IAUS)