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Murder in the Citizens’ Jury (play)

Summary

Eight people in a Citizens’ Jury, discussing the most important challenge in the history of humanity – how to save ourselves from the looming climate crisis. Exciting new solutions are proposed, each with their own champions and detractors. What they decide will affect us all. But they all have their own issues to deal with, and one of them has a hidden agenda. Who is the assassin and who are they there to kill?

Afterwards the audience are invited to choose (if they wish) their favourite climate solution, and to help the Director of of Public Prosecutions with the moral dilemma of whether to prosecute the killer. If he does, it will shut down Citizens’ Juries which he believes are the magic bullet to help us make decisions that will avert climate change.

This has been developed as an interactive play which entertains and educates. It raises awareness of the potential of Citizens’ Assemblies as a way to reboot our democracy and allow it to make more sustainable climate-friendly decisions. An associated aim is to share climate solutions with a wider audience.

Theatre-in-Education

There is huge appetite for action on climate change, yet awareness of solutions remains low. Drawing upon the tradition of ‘theatre-in -education’, the objective is to use the play to raise awareness of citizen’s assemblies, transformative climate solutions and generate debate among wider society. Audiences will be exposed to a range of solutions through the story, and vote on their favourite. These include: Sharing economy/Libraries of Things; On-demand buses; personal carbon allowances; repair/reuse. Also mentioned are sustainable farming and wildlife gardening.

We welcome inquiries from theatre companies who would like to workshop/perform the play.

We have two versions:

Full play of 90-100 minutes with cast of eight/nine: The first public performance will be the Maskers 17th – 21st September 2024.

This format is suited to amateur dramatic clubs where cost of paying the cast is not an issue.

We plan versions which include a Q&A and versions with a workshop to debate the issues that arise. Thanks to Naomi Elster who adapted the short story ‘The Assassin’ I wrote into stage format. The current draft is available here.

Professional feedback from a script consultant is promising and its first read-through has gone very well. We now seek theatre companies to perform the play. Please get in touch if interested.

The play has got wonderful, eclectic characters that the audience can see themselves reflected in just enough to empathise with, but enough “caricature” to be able to criticise, and thus question one’s own actions and motives. The educational ambition of the play blends very well, and the declarative nature of the play medium allows for effective monologues that educate the audience. As a person with no ecological knowledge, it was incredibly interesting to learn about these topics in an engaging manner. Paired with great moments of comedy (the writer has a knack for comedy), the murder mystery element is paced well through the ingenious spotlight switches in between the interrogation and the event, and it will be entertaining for the director to make this work. Overall, the story is great – incredibly engaging, memorable, and well written. It makes a wonderful murder mystery that stays with you.

I have funds from the British Academy towards a production: if you’re a theatre company interested to put it on, please get in touch.

Short version 25 minutes dramatic monologue suitable for a one-person performance: Free performance Southampton Central Library 20th April 2024 7.30pm. Book here

This is a one-man play of 25 minutes written by Denise Baden, from the University of Southampton and performed by Jack Klaff. It is a drama exploring the ethical crisis of the Director of Public Prosecutions who has to decide whether to prosecute a murder. If he does so, he will alienate his family, and it will mean the end for citizens’ assemblies – a form of direct democracy which many believe could be the silver bullet to avert a climate crisis.

This version is suited to one act play festival Totton (March) and Edinburgh Fringe (August) and performances at sustainability/climate-related events. Here is the first draft. You can see a 5 minute extract from scene 3 by an actor who sent in a reading (only makes sense if you’ve read script).

Abridged versions of full play for selected audiences/locales e.g. in local library or repair cafes can focus on sections where topics such as the sharing economy/libraries of things and repair/reuse are debated.

Related events/progress

Climate change installation

Concept

I’d like to find ways to present climate change dramatically on stage, and highlight what is at stake if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions urgently.

For example in the play, ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ where a man is standing trial for murder in 1950, a gallows is erected on stage and we see the accused struggling to get away as he’s dragged towards the noose. This creates a sense of jeopardy showing what is at stake. We want to achieve something similar on stage in a play related to climate change so we can ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ the audience what is at stake.

The Netflix documentary ‘Breaking Boundaries’ has a chilling image of thousands of stick figures marching mechanically past the Earth’s tipping points into the unknown, like lemmings. One could recreate a similar effect on stage with shadows against a screen possibly, accompanied by a voice intoning facts about climate change, interspersed with government announcements about continuing to open coal mines, North Sea oil etc. The documentary also talks about planetary tipping points as being like a runaway train downhill with the brakes beginning to fail – these kinds of metaphors could be physically demonstrated on stage.

For example, a dramatic way to portray the mechanics of tipping points visually might be to have scales, and cogs and whirring machinery (Mouse Trap style) to show the inevitability of catastrophic changes once tipping points are passed. For example a tap dripping into a jug that tips once a certain amount of water is in it could trigger cogs that whir and then lead to another jug that might tip. Even better if there’s an actual threat that water might spill out onto the stage. Or more ambitiously, construct something that mirrors global warming e.g. heats water – condenses then drips into a jug, that once enough is in it, will spill out all over the stage. If it’s accompanied by a ticking, it would add an immediacy especially if we keep adding fuel that increases the mechanism to the point where the people in the front row start to worry! It could tick away throughout the whole performance getting louder at certain points. or use scales where the scale tips.

Or you could make use of existing concepts such as a ticking doomsday clock or use Climate Clock | Human Impact Lab or  Climate Clock — a multimedia experience by activist/musician David Usher and Concordia researcher Damon Matthews – Concordia University.

All ideas welcome to help make ‘Murder in the Citizens’ Jury’ an arresting, memorable and entertaining drama.