Theatre in Education

This is a one-man play of 25 minutes written by Denise Baden, from the University of Southampton and performed by Jack Klaff. It explores the ethical crisis of the Director of Public Prosecutions. If he prosecutes, he will alienate his family, and it will mean the end for citizensā€™ assemblies ā€“ a form of direct democracy which many believe could be the silver bullet to avert a climate crisis.

Drawing upon the tradition of ā€˜theatre-in -educationā€™, the objective is to use the play to raise awareness of citizenā€™s assemblies and engage the audience in the ethical dilemma faced by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Audience participation is voluntary. Results from audience votes may be used as part of a research paper or shared with interested parties.

First performance at University of Southampton 11th Nov 2023 3pm-4pm. Free. The event will also be live streamed from https://www.youtube.com/@greenstoriesuk/streams. A polished recording of the performance will be available end Nov 23.

The next opportunity to see the dramatic monologue version is Thurs 25th April 2024 at 7.30pm at Southampton central library.

Full cast (9 mixed M & F) 90-minute whodunnit version of the play

Eight people in a Citizensā€™ Jury, discussing the most important challenge in the history of humanity ā€“ how to save ourselves from the looming climate crisis. Exciting new solutions are proposed, each with their own champions and detractors. What they decide will affect us all. But they all have their own issues to deal with, and one of them has a hidden agenda. Who is the assassin and who are they there to kill?

Afterwards the audience are invited to choose (if they wish) their favourite climate solution, and to help the Director of of Public Prosecutions with the moral dilemma of whether to prosecute the killer. If he does, it will shut down Citizensā€™ Juries which he believes are the magic bullet to help us make decisions that will avert climate change.

Review

The play has got wonderful, eclectic characters that the audience can see themselves reflected in just enough to empathise with, but enough ā€œcaricatureā€ to be able to criticise, and thus question oneā€™s own actions and motives.Ā The educational ambition of the play blends very well, and the declarative nature of the play medium allows for effective monologues that educate the audience. As a person with no ecological knowledge, it was incredibly interesting to learn about these topics in an engaging manner. Paired with great moments of comedy (the writer has a knack for comedy), the murder mystery element is paced well through the ingenious spotlight switches in between the interrogation and the event, and it will be entertaining for the director to make this work.Ā Overall, the story is great ā€“ incredibly engaging, memorable, and well written. It makes a wonderful murder mystery that stays with you.

We plan versions which include a Q&A and versions with a workshop to debate the issues that arise. Thanks to Naomi Elster who adapted the short story ā€˜The Assassinā€™ I wrote into stage format. The script is availableĀ here.

Professional feedback from a script consultant is promising and its first read-through has gone very well. We now seek theatre companies to perform the play. Please get in touch if interested.

I have funds from the British Academy towards a production: if youā€™re a theatre company interested to put it on, please get in touch.

Information on Citizens’ Assemblies

Citizensā€™ assemblies help to address the weaknesses of our current system. These are:

  • Short electoral cycles means long-term existential issues are unaddressed.
  • Many elected politicians are drawn from wealthy, upper classes and lack awareness of issues faced by those they represent. 
  • Politicians are constrained by powerful vested interests, media conglomerates, party factions and ideological party members.
  • Population often vote on basis of misinformation rather than being informed by independent experts in the relevant field. 

Information and photo adapted from  https://www.sortitionfoundation.org/citizens_assembly Information below taken from Citizens’ Assembly | involve.org.uk

A citizensā€™ assembly is a group of people who are brought together to discuss an issue or issues and reach a conclusion about what they think should happen. The people who take part are chosen so they reflect the wider population ā€“ in terms of demographics (e.g. age, gender, ethnicity, social class) and sometimes relevant attitudes (e.g. preferences for a small or large state).

Citizensā€™ assemblies give members of the public the time and opportunity to learn about and discuss a topic, before reaching conclusions. Assembly participants are asked to make trade-offs and arrive at workable recommendations.

This method can be used most effectively when the goal is:

  • Examining broad policy objectives/ horizon scanning to create new ideas and propose solutions;
  • Assessing policy options to develop recommendations;
  • Gaining insight from the public about the efficacy of existing practice.

Citizensā€™ assemblies have been used in the UK and other countries ā€“ including Australia, Canada and the United States ā€“ to tackle a range of complex issues. A citizensā€™ assembly in the Republic of Ireland ā€“ established by the Irish parliament ā€“ addressed a number of important legal and policy issues facing Irish society. These included equal marriage, abortion and the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population.

Strengths

  • The process can be high profile and provide a good way of drawing attention to an issue
  • Can bring out diverse perspectives on complex and contested problems
  • Decision makers brought face-to-face with citizens or those with lived experience of an issue
  • Learning phase and deliberation with peers can help participants to understand, change and develop their opinions;
  • Offers policy makers an insight on public opinion on a contested issue based on the public having access to thorough and unbiased information and time for deliberation

Weaknesses

  • Gaining a broadly representative group of people can be challenging and expensive
  • The process for developing and planning an assembly is intensive and demanding on human and time resource
  • Running a citizensā€™ assembly is a highly complex process requiring significant expertise
  • There is a danger of being seen as a publicity exercise if not followed by real outcomes (applies if only have power to recommend)
  • They are not effective when used to achieve a pre-conceived outcome; those commissioning them must be genuinely open to the public generating new ideas and solutions