“If not me, who? If not now, when?” asks Lindsey McAlister in her new eco-play If Not Me, Who? for ArtisTree Selects: Theatre Bites. “It’s a quote by the Jewish scholar Hillel the Elder,” she says. “I find it rather fitting for the message of the piece. It’s so easy to think, ‘It’s not my responsibility, somebody else will make a change, and we’ve got years.’ It’s easy to push it aside and continue living.”
With her son being a climate scientist and glaciologist, McAlister hears about environmental issues frequently, but all those scientific facts never reached her emotionally – until recently. “Ever since my son got a new job at the Pole, he’s been talking more about the human side of it, which really resonates with me,” she shares. Inspired by this change of attitude in herself, she decided to write an emotive piece about climate change from the human angle.
If Not Me, Who? is different from other theatre productions you may have encountered, though. “It’s a piece of eco-theatre,” McAlister says, “which is a genre created by conservationists and naturalists in the 1980s to inform and educate, so the eco-plays at that time weren’t very theatrical. But over the years, since the environment has become such an important issue, it’s evolved with theatre companies and writers adding more creative pieces to the genre.”
For If Not Me, Who?, McAlister combines elements of comedy, musical and physical theatre to create a unique concept piece, one that will take you on an emotional roller coaster despite not having a storyline or characters. “It has different scenes that look at issues such as fast fashion, veganism and climate change in a comedic way,” she explains. “I think theatre can make serious issues more accessible. It’s also about entertaining, not preaching – if you entertain somebody, they will be more open to listen to what you have to say.”
So what does McAlister have to say about the environment? “We need to make bigger choices. I’m as big a consumer as anybody, but the more I’ve been involved in writing this piece, the bigger my lifestyle change has become,” she says. While researching for the play, she was shocked by the environmental impact of the fashion industry, in particular, fast fashion. Upset by this she wrote to retailers about her concern. She recalls, “I felt so angry that I’d had no idea how they treated their workers and the environment! Why did nobody tell me that?”
One section of the piece is dedicated to fast fashion, but instead of a lecture on what you should or shouldn’t do, it simply tells you how a T-shirt is made. “The idea is to get the audience thinking and recognising things about themselves. After they’ve seen the piece, I really hope that at least one of them will have such a big reaction as I did when I first learnt of all these [facts],” she adds. “So I hope this play will offer action and hope.”
10-22 June 2019