Climate change is a monumentally complex issue that can feel overwhelming at times, the magnitude of the problem sometimes leaving you with a sense of hopelessness and detachment. Facts and figures can be depressing, experts obscure, and there is a sense that it is too late to do anything about it anyway. Two Canaries changes all that. This is a performance full of heart and soul. It makes a point without judgement but it is strong in its message: we must do something now or else face becoming like “Nero, the leader who fiddled, while Rome burned around him.”
Two Canaries, presented and directed by Alexa Taylor, is a personal and individual exploration of climate change that makes you feel something about the issue because it hits you right in the heart, not the head. This is a performance about how climate change makes people feel, not how it makes people think. It is about experiences that one has with nature and animals, about a beautiful planet facing a toxic future, and the real-life consequences that people face day to day and year to year.
The two lead canaries (played by Jess Nyanda Moyle and Zoe Street), one from the Pacific and one from the Arctic, are Earth’s “canaries in the coal mine” singing to warn us of impending doom. Each actress brought herself to the role and shared intimate personal moments with the audience as they seamlessly transitioned from scene to scene weaving a narrative out of no narrative. They navigated personal tales of their childhood in Australia that merged seamlessly with grand historical anecdotes, funny skits with more serious sombre moments, and sad long dirges accompanied by one violin (played beautifully by Brooke Wilson), mourning the loss of our beautiful environment and singing for a brighter future ahead.
The set was elegantly simple, two thin icebergs floating on a stage of ankle-deep water with a large screen at the back, and this allowed the lighting, acting and visuals space to create beautiful and haunting tableaux. The movement of the water became another medium with which the actresses could convey emotion. There were moments of quiet introspection as the water was still, reflecting each actress in the mirror-like surface and then more tumultuous moments represented by ripples cascading across the surface.
This is an amazing performance that feels really important in the current socio-political climate, powerful in its simplicity. It manages to take a momentous issue and bring it to an intimate space to be explored without ego and without judgement. One is left with a sense of hope that maybe together we can do something, and that maybe if we do something now not all will be lost.
Photos by Floyd Perrin