Afloat – Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Online

Reviewer: Helen Tope

Writers: Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan

Director: Anna Simpson

In a week where the United Nations has issued a landmark report on climate change, issuing a ‘Code Red for humanity’, Sunday’s Child Theatre Company presents Afloat. An online production centring on the impact of climate change, we face the consequences of a worst-case scenario.

We meet Debs and Blan, two friends trying to meet up for a spa weekend at a venue called The Edmonton Clinic. As they trawl the streets of Dublin, both women notice the skies turn black with cloud. Debs (played by Annette O’Shea) comments that the sea seems distant, too distant. As rain begins to pour, Debs and Blan realise to their horror that is no ordinary storm. The sea comes back into shore as a raging, giant wave.

The friends battle through the panic, heading to Liberty Hall. They find themselves in an abandoned boardroom, as Dublin becomes submerged. In this nightmare, they manage practicalities. Biscuits and wine are in plentiful supply. As the friends try to piece together what has happened, Debs realises that the water is continuing to rise.

While providing a commentary on climate change, Afloat is also a character study, as the play (written by Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan) looks at the tensions within the women’s friendship.

At first they seem at odds with each other: the corporate-chic, suited Blan (played by Eva O’Connor) is on track for promotion. Everything in her life seems perfect, until we learn her anxiety has to be managed through medication. Debs, on the other hand, struggles to hold onto a job. She has not yet admitted that her drinking has become a problem. Afloat gives us a series of flashbacks into the women’s lives, and it is clear that both of them, prior to the flood, were already in crisis mode.

In between these flashbacks, we have excerpts of a TED Talk-style presentation. A scientist (Michael-David McKernan) talks us through the projections. From a one degree change in temperature, to six degrees, the implications are horrifying.

Afloat cleverly juxtaposes the women’s lives with the apocalyptic crisis facing them. Their yearning for the cultural, colourful Dublin they knew “before” will have an emotional resonance with an audience still making its way through a global pandemic.

O’Connor and Ryan build in the statistics carefully – the question of personal and corporate responsibility is really interesting, with no definitive answer. Afloat is really honest about our propensity to defer action – any real, meaningful change. The paradox that Afloat asks us to confront is that no action on climate change is even more damaging than our current course taken in sustaining and driving it forward.

In this play O’Connor and Ryan find a balance between messaging with a sense of urgency and using the metaphor of loss to engage us. With most of us are stuck in a holding pattern of anxiety and denial, Afloat considers not what we have to give up, but what we might lose altogether.

Available from: 6 August 2021 | Image: Contributed

The Reviews Hub Score

Climate change drama

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The Reviews Hub - Scotland

The Scotland team is under the editorship of Lauren Humphreys. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. We aim to review all professional types of theatre, whether that be Commercial, Repertory or Fringe as well as Comedy, Music, Gigs etc.

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