Irish theatre company Sunday’s Child set out to draw attention to issues that often get swept under the carpet. Afloat is exactly that. The play presents us with a world in which the climate crisis has well and truly caught up with us.
Dublin is underwater. Best friends Bláthnaid and Debs have managed to outrun the tidal wave and are now living on the top floor of (the onetime tallest building in the country) Liberty Hall. Living off biscuits and waiting for the waters to recede, they try to fill their days with push ups and office biscuits. With only each other for company – and no idea about how long they might be there – their friendship is stretched to breaking point.
Debs (Annette O’Shea) is nicely sanctimonious – until her own secret unravels. Bláthnaid (Eva O’Connor) is beautifully in denial – though perhaps ironically, winds up as the one who’s more committed to change. And Michael-David Kernan as the Scientist channels Tony Robbins in an earnestly likeable fashion. The play has been staged (Anna Simpson) and then filmed in a fairly traditional fashion. There’s a nice use of projections to include the looming sea level. And Suzie Cummins‘ lighting design adds just the right amount of menace.
This is a fun (despite the subject matter) and thoughtful reflection on what it will take to make us collectively and individually confront the climate emergency. There’s an interesting exploration of friendship and what will and won’t be tolerated. And there’s a glorious twist that flings all the guilt, hand-wringing and lofty intentions into sharp relief.
It’s a tricky thing to present an audience, many of whom will have their heads entirely buried in the sand, with a vision of what might happen if we don’t take some pretty significant action, pretty soon. But Afloat does a cracking job of making that message easy to listen to and hard to avoid.