Sea Sick is a beautifully simple and affecting piece of storytelling about climate breakdown and the oceans - and about one woman's mission to understand the damage that's being done to our seas. It's an enchanting experience and worth seeing for the seasoned climate activist and the eco-novice alike.
A beautifully simple and affecting piece of storytelling about climate breakdown and the oceans
Alanna Mitchell isn't a climate scientist, an environmental campaigner, or a marine conservationist - she doesn't even like the water. And yet, somehow, while researching a book on Darwin, she is drawn into a prolonged investigation the biggest story of our age: climate change. The show is a beautifully told story of this investigation - the adventures, conversations with scientists, and personal reflections which she has along the way. From coral reef spawnings to deep-sea submarine dives to landlocked Canadian prairies, the scenes are seamlessly stitched together to create the arc of an elegant narrative.
Mitchell is a captivating storyteller. She projects an image of warm, sincerity and occasional mischief and, despite announcing that she is not an actor, she delivers the whole performance with great poise and stage presence. The whole show is written with an understated elegance, the language carefully chosen to be both unpretentious and graceful. You could listen to her stories for hours.
The set is a minimal affair: a chalkboard and a tall table carrying a jug and a glass of water. All the focus is on her.
The ecological theorist Timothy Morton has coined the term 'hyper-objects' to describe phenomena, like climate change, which are so vast, sprawling and dispersed in time and space that you cannot hold all of them in your mind at the same time - and therefore they become difficult to conceptualise. Mitchell is wrestling with a similar problem: How to tell a socio-ecological story on a scale which is simply too big to grasp. Sea Sick is in part a story about how to communicate science; Mitchell herself is struggling to make sense of what the huge volumes of data she is presented with means and how to communicate them to the public in a way that will inspire action.
It's painful at times (the image of a terrified baby octopus climbing up the ropes of a fishing boat in order to escape the unbearably acidic sea we have created is I found particularly heart-breaking) but it never feels accusatory or guilt-tripping. Mitchell only briefly discusses the solutions needed to address the mess of climate change, but when she does she stresses that the answer must lie in collective, government-led change and that getting hung-up on individual lifestyle choices is ultimately self-defeating.
Oh, in case I've made it sound too sombre and poignant, it’s also worth mentioning that it's really funny!