An acronym of New Orleans, Louisiana, NOLA is a surprising theatre documentary following the devastating after effects of the BP oil spill crisis. After studying footage of interviews with fishermen, oil-rig workers, activists, toxicologists, lawyers, and housewives, the actors play the real characters within the story, which is as easily cinematic as any Hollywood disaster movie churned out year after year. This created an incredibly dense production, especially for someone with a basic a knowledge of the crisis.
The screen behind the actors introducing each character had the air of a slightly amateur GCSE powerpoint presentation. However, this did not detract too much from following the story, as each character was distinct enough to barely warrant an introduction.
It was not so much entertaining as informative, with the accounts of numerous people blending together to form a detailed narrative from the moment of the disaster to the present day. The interviews with the men working on the oil rig were immediately arresting, telling accounts of jumping 100 feet off the burning rig into the sea, the oil content so high that the water was catching alight.
Possibly the best thing about NOLA was the breadth of evidence provided; all aspects of the disaster were covered, not merely the diesel-encrusted pelicans, footage of which was broadcast worldwide. A toxicologist delivered a lecture from TEDtalks about the political chemistry of oil and how disasters such as the BP catastrophe may be an incentive to wean the USA off their damaging dependence on oil. A fisherwoman from Gulf described various attempts to strain the oil from the water: the ‘soft boom’, which soaks up the hydrocarbons; and the ‘hard boom’, which is suspended on the surface of the water to prevent the oil on the surface going into the bay. A marine biologist then described the damaging effect of the dispersants used to break down and ‘sink’ the oil, and the resultant increased toxicity in the water as the particles disperse.
NOLA took the best aspects of an interesting politics lecture and Coast documentary and made them into ta taut, compelling piece of theatre. To go into a show and come out feeling ten times more intelligent can only be a plus.