Theatre review: Lights! Climate! Action!

Someone in this play better have held that boombox up and played a song to their girlfriend’s open window. Jorah Bright

The U of R Department of Theatre’s first group show after pandemic-induced hiatus

Live theatre: sitting in an audience with other theatre lovers and watching a story unfold in front of you, watching people performing and doing what they love. Live theatre is an incredible experience.

Throughout the pandemic, live theatre has been a scarce commodity. Most performers, the few that they are, had the choice to perform outside or not at all. Broadway productions have just returned after the long shutdown. And right here at the University of Regina, live theatre has returned.

From November 3 to 6, the U of R Department of Theatre put on the show Plan(et) B presents: Lights! Climate! Action!, ashow about climate change.

The story follows eight different eco-warriors, mostly portrayed in two groups of four – and from an audience standpoint it was difficult to see where the story went from there. Rather than being one whole cohesive storyline, it was a collection of 12 plays put together in the same show. Each play was written by a different member of the production. This made things a little confusing and difficult to understand. Yes, there was a thread connecting all the plays together, but trying to connect the dots made me feel like the meme of Charlie connecting the red lines on the conspiracy board from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I think one aspect that contributed to the play’s not feeling cohesive is that the order wasn’t initially set. The cast revealed in interviews that the order was made after rehearsals had begun and the two casts began working together. I also found out through those cast interviews that the show was about the characters taking part in a climate change theatre festival. The EventBrite listing describes it as, “a post-apocalyptic world where our ‘eco-warriors’ gather in the rubble of their lives to remember the world as it was and to imagine what it can be in a futuristic theatre festival.” Either they said it in the beginning and I just missed it, or it wasn’t very well explained.

I love a good storyline, and I’ll suffer through a lot to get a good story, but Lights! Climate! Action! was missing that. Despite the lacking story, it had a good message. Climate change is very real and has real effects on our lives and will continue for years to come, and Lights! Climate! Action showed that very clearly. In my opinion, the most important piece of the story is the message of morality that comes across when it’s over, and this play nailed that on the head.

The best play within the show was the penguin piece starring Lucas Babcock who played Rhett, a member of the ‘Reclaimed Kingdom’ group. Babcock didn’t have use of his hands for this piece because he was in a penguin costume. People often talk with their hands because it’s a natural thing to do, but while telling the story of a penguin and an albatross, Babcock couldn’t do that. He also had limited mobility in his legs because of the costume and had to hop around. The overall acting in this scene was fantastic and humorous. I had the most fun watching this monologue and it swiftly became my favourite.

The actors in Lights! Climate! Action! were amazing. They took the story that was meant to be separate and brought it all together through their characters; they saved the storyline. Although I did feel that both groups were fantastic when they were broken into sub-groups, the chemistry between the sub-groups didn’t translate well when all eight actors were on stage. When they were in the sub-groups, they truly seemed like groups of people who lived together in hard times and came to rely on each other and trust each other. Some of these moments felt special, like found family. Altogether, they seemed a little awkward and disjointed, but the costuming helped repair that and made them feel more connected.

The costumes and the set were entirely made from upcycled, repurposed, and recycled pieces, and they looked great. From the front row, you could see words about climate change written on the pieces. They had the same vibes as the Fates from Hadestown. Each character had a different symbol of one of the four elements on their face – the style was taken from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The set’s colour scheme flowed naturally throughout the stage and the lighting brought out the more earthy tones. It felt almost minimalistic, but it wasn’t because there was paper and piles of things. It was simple, yet complex. 

One piece of the set left me confused. There was a barrel with a fire in it. Sometimes the actors touched it and the characters reacted like it was hot to the touch, but sometimes they didn’t. Was the barrel supposed to be hot or not?

The stand-out performances were from Finn Burke Eggertson as Roach and Jacey Jacobs as Ash from The Waste Watchers. From the moment Eggertson walked out on stage, he presented a clear and defined character in Roach. Roach was socially anxious until he was performing in a separate play, and as someone with social anxiety who performed for years, I saw myself in that character.  Eggertson evoked emotion in his performance – fear and joy, laughter and pain. He was brilliant; Jacobs equally so. She played the little sister-like character incredibly well, and despite that archetype, she stood out. The character of Ash felt developed and so did the other characters Jacobs portrayed in the smaller plays. Every time I looked at Jacobs, even when she wasn’t speaking, she was fully in character and fully responding to what was happening.

The play took place at the Shumiatcher Open Stage, commonly known as the Shu-Box. This made the play feel more intimate because the space was smaller. It allowed for more immersion for the audience into the space. I was the only person sitting in the front row, aside from the cast when they sat in the audience while the other group was performing. Each cast seat had a reserved sign on it, which made it seem like the entire row was reserved and seemed to lead to a bit of confusion for audience members. I only knew that I could sit there because I asked someone working if I could.

Overall, Lights! Climate! Action! was improved by the cast portraying the characters who made up for the disjointed storyline. They were its saving graces: the actors, and the overall powerful message about climate change. I can see every actor who was on that stage having a bright future in performance.


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