While the Clock is Ticking

What’s it like when the Anthropocene is your day-job?

How is it to live with climate change, not as a thing you read about in the newspaper or go on a demonstration about, but as what’s waiting for you on your desk at nine o’clock each morning? What does it do to you as a person, to your relationships with those around you, to the decisions you make about your life?

Last summer, four of us were commissioned by The Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm and Riksteatern, Sweden’s touring national theatre, to write a play about the realities of life for the scientists who find themselves at the frontline of climate research.

As writers, we were each paired with a researcher. Four researchers working in different fields, at different stages in their careers, with different backgrounds, whose work has brought them to confront the scale of the impact of human activity on global systems.

We met for coffee, then again for longer interviews, and out of this research came the beginnings of four fictional characters, each telling their own stories, and questioning each other about how they got here, and what kinds of hope are left when you’ve swum with dead coral reefs and watched the failure of negotiations at close quarters.

Yesterday, our play – Medan klockan tickar, While the Clock is Ticking – went into rehearsals. If those four researchers handed us their knowledge and their stories to work with, now it was our turn to hand on the results to the four actors who will bring them to life, under the direction of Sara Giese.

I was there for the first read-through with the cast yesterday morning – and having never written for the stage before, it is both a nervous and a magical experience, hearing the words start to take shape in someone else’s mouth.

I need to give a shout out to my experienced co-writers for their support and encouragement – Anders Duus, Ninna Tersman and Jesper Weithz. The four of us got to know each other through the Dark Mountain Workshop that I ran for Riksteatern during 2015-16 and the common ground we found through those sessions gave us the starting point for this collaboration. Big thanks also to Gustav Tegby, the dramaturge who wove our texts together, and Edward Buffalo Bromberg who, together with Sara, translated my text into Swedish.

Medan klockan tickar is being produced as a directed reading, with a first performance for staff at the Royal Dramatic Theatre next week, then a tour of Swedish university cities over the following month. Each performance will be followed by a discussion with the audience.

Tickets are available for the following public performances: