Isla Cowan’s beautifully written new play is a gem. It focusses on the relationship between two young women in their last year at school whose lives are overshadowed by the climate emergency.
The play opens on a beach where the two seventeen year olds are collecting litter (including a lot of plastic items). Their characters are brought to life by Caroline McKeown (Cassie) and Tiana Milne-Wilson (Claire). Those two very talented actors are totally convincing as the best friends. They have a very relaxed natural rapport but as the play develops and they seem to be growing apart, their emotionally charged scenes are perfecting pitched, and engrossing. Two wonderful performances.
Cassie and Claire are both concerned by the climate crisis, but it is Cassie who is the activist. She wants to be an environmental lawyer. Claire’s focus is more on the arts. She want to go to New York and sing and dance.
Both look at social media constantly as well as following the news on the BBC and Sky. It seems hardly a day passes without news of extreme weather events somewhere on the globe. This constant focus on floods, forest fires and excessive temperatures takes its toll, particularly on Cassie who has horrific nightmares.
But Claire has serious personal problems. Her mother has always been a heavy smoker, and now she’s very ill, and can’t work.
Meanwhile Cassie, serving on the School Council and stepping up her climate activism, seems to have less and less time for Claire, and this causes tensions.
There’s a nearby plastic factory which Cassie detests because of the threat it poses to wildlife and the environment. She decides to organise a demonstration there and persuades some celebrities to take part. However, they withdraw their support when the factory claims it’s investing in renewables – a claim rejected by Cassie as ‘greenwashing’.
Things come to a head when Claire reveals she’s applying for an apprenticeship at the plastics factory. She needs the money because of her mother’s illness, and this apprenticeship seems to offer the best prospects.
In a furious argument, Claire tells Cassie for the first time about her mother’s illness, but Cassie says the life of one person means nothing compared to the life of the planet. It’s a shocking moment, and it seems that the relationship cannot recover.
At the demonstration outside the plastics factory, Cassie makes a powerful speech but is overcome with emotion, and breaks down with a fit of coughing.
Cassie’s speech is posted on social media and attracts a lot of hateful comments. She feels a failure, and is in despair.
The play could have had a gloomy ending. But there is a tender reconciliation with Claire. And Cassie’s speech goes viral, attracting more love than hate.
In the last few minutes of the play, Cassie and Claire tell us about all the positive things that happen to them after they leave school. It all sounds good. The ending could be criticised as a bit rushed and overly optimistic. Had it been a full length play, perhaps there would have been scope for telling the story of the later developments in more detail. But this is a one act play aimed at young people. It deals with the anxieties faced by millions throughout the world, and it leaves us with a message of hope. And we all need that.
‘And..And..And’ is crisply directed by Steve Small. The versatile, imaginative set and costumes are designed by Katie Innes. George Cort designs the atmospheric lighting. Gavin Fort’s sound effects are excellent.
This production by Strange Town Touring Company has only a couple of performances in the Traverse’s intimate studio theatre, but it’s touring Edinburgh’s schools until the end of October. It deserves a wider audience.
Reviewer: Tom Scott
Reviewed: 6th October 2023
North West End UK Rating: