Since 2012, LAStheatre has been creating multi-disciplinary science/art projects under the banner of The Enlightenment Café. These projects use storytelling to set up a scenario and context for a series of theatrical lectures and/or interactive installations set around a real-world problem. Since 2018, we have been planning ΖΩΗ, our fifth major Enlightenment Café production, which will focus on London’s ecosystem and the importance of biodiversity to wellbeing in urban environments. As a company, we believe firmly in the power of collaboration. Against the backdrop of Schools Strike for Climate, Extinction Rebellion and Culture Declares Emergency, it seems vital that scientists, artists and organisations big & small come together to develop work that can spark debate and inspire action on biodiversity-loss. We would love to share this opportunity with you. Let’s work together and #Collaborate4Change.
This year, London becomes the world’s first National Park City. However, over the next two generations, Earth’s cities will experience massive population growth and pressure will mount to relinquish our green spaces for development. This is not a fanciful idea; it has already begun. A recent recently by London Wildlife Trust and GiGL tells us that on average 2.5 Hyde Parks of greenspace is lost each year – habitat and biodiversity-loss is occurring daily. This timely performance will allow us to pose the question:
If our National Park City is something worth celebrating, is it not also worth protecting?
The basic narrative: The year is 2070. ΖΩΗ (the audience) have hacked a government server and gained access to ecological records dating back to 2019. Records sealed by the Government fearing eco-terrorism if the extent of biodiversity-loss and its consequences were revealed. ΖΩΗ have never met in person, they communicate exclusively using an ancient, undetectable, system called mail. That is about to change. All members are called to unite as ΖΩΗ attempt to mine this data for information on how to rescue their dying ecosystem. However, to access this information they must go online. ΖΩΗ have created an algorithm to help process the data but there are things that the AI struggles to determine – like the benefits that biodiversity and greenspace have for the wellbeing of human beings. Within 6 experimental works stations, the AI sends tasks to the members of ΖΩΗ to determine this information. ΖΩΗ will only have 120 minutes before their identity and location will be compromised. Just 119 minutes to learn all they can.
The experience will consist of a main performance space and six stand-alone workstations. Each participatory installations will be created through a different collaboration between our arts collaborators, scientific/conservation partners and a designer. This project will be our first Enlightenment Cafe show designed to tour. Through partnerships with local universities and conservation groups, we hope to update the installations with information on the local ecosystem as it tours.
This production will, of course, discuss biodiversity-loss in its context as a global problem. WWF‘s recent Living Planet Report tells us that since 1970 humanity has wiped out 60% of animal populations on Earth. Last November, the United Nations warned that the world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction. By transporting the audience to the year 2070, we can paint a bleak but all too possible future that demonstrates what will happen to our environment if we continue to place human convenience at the apex of how we develop our physical environment. Within the world of the show, we can then look back to London in 2019 with 47% green space, more than 13,000 species and an ecosystem that was in relative balance. This will allow us to appreciate the privileged position we are currently in and the immense potential for loss (both to our ecosystem and our well-being) in the decades to come.
We are excited to already be working with partners including My Green Pod, London National Park City, UCL, London Wildlife Trust, Greenspace Information for Greater London, Urban Bees and The Green Schools Project. We are particularly keen to work closely with schools in the delivery of this production. Earlier this year, Schools Strike for Climate demonstrated the urgent need for dialogue between the custodians of our environment and those that will inherit it. This project aims to offer a space for that dialogue to take place.
We are interested in exploring how other companies, designers, researchers, producers, venues, outreach programmes and anyone else excited by this project can get involved in this collaboration. If you would like to talk to us about ΖΩΗ, please email enquiries@LAStheatre.com.
If you are a teacher or student in a London school, please get in touch with our Producer, Liz Bate, to discuss how you can participate in the project for free: liz@LAStheatre.com.
Please also contact us and tell us about the projects you are doing and how we can help.
Our previous Enlightenment Café shows
The Institute of Impossibility