I wanted to like this. I wanted to be able to say “new play”…”climate change”…”thought-provoking” … “go see.”
But although “Hibernation” – set in a future where to buy us more time to sort out the climate crisis, almost all the humans on earth are put into a year-long coma – is well-staged and very well-acted, it’s a palace built on sand. The play itself is a vastly-overlong unmagic pudding, in love with its own perceived cleverness. Specific bits work well (of the four of us who attended, I was alone in particularly liking the middle section, with two people who have not gone to sleep), and the opening scene – with a policy wonk trying to present the Big Hibernation Idea to an abrasive minister – is bravura, they cannot make up for the plodding, the mishmash of ideas (largely not followed up) and the glaring plot holes, political howlers, and the overall LENGTH of the damn thing.
Various sub-plots felt gratuitous, as if they were trying to meet various quotas for international/interracial awareness and representation.
Two problems are worth touching on – the “in-universe” implausibilities and the ecological and political messaging.
Implausibilities- Everyone’s supposed to be asleep. Pet dogs (and cats?) have been put outdoors because otherwise they might feast on their dozing humans. But, um, insects? Mice? Rats? Not addressed, and needed at least a sentence. There are certain people who aren’t asleep and there is a reason why they don’t succumb. And that very reason would have made them actually very very easy to track down. This is not even explained away.
These sorts of things wouldn’t matter if the play were good (the Bourne films, which I adore, have big plot holes, but who cares if you’re having a good time and there is a decent message). Oh well. Which brings us to the political:
Amitav Ghosh, in his masterful “The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable” writes that climate change – which is about huge “impersonal” forces that clash like ignorant armies at night – is not easily addressed by Western bourgeois forms such as novels and plays. For what it is worth, I think he is right. And I’m willing to give people a passing mark for trying (I know, how generous of me!), but when we have speechifying about Rosa Parks, stripped of all context, of all the knowledge of what else had to happen to even get as much as desegregation of the bus network in Birmingham, Alabama, let alone anything more substantive than that, then I want to throw up. If we are going to talk about the shit we are in, let’s put aside the noble mythologies which allow us to cos-play social movement success, or to wait around because the Beautiful Ones have not yet been born.
Ben Elton Stark
Doctor Who and the Invasion of the Dinosaurs (another ‘save the earth’ scheme)
Charlton Heston in The Omega Man (a far better take on the loneliness, paranoia and survivor guilt thing)
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