by Richard Bean
A Library Theatre Company Production
The Lowry Theatre
27 September to 13 October 2012
Reviewed by Alwyn Murray
The Heretic is a British black comedy play by Richard Bean about climate change and its sceptics. Opening on the 27 Sept 2012 until 13 Oct 2012 at the Lowry Centre, Quays Theatre directed by Chris Honer.
The Heretic, proves to be a riotous comedy, funny, very provocative and stimulating, and absolutely resolute in its refusal to lapse into the apocalyptic gloom that usually attends this subject. Cate Hamer is a remarkable actress, here she is a wonderful funny, sarky character as Dr Diane Cassell, an earth sciences lecturer at a northern university who is – and I can hardly describe the feeling of relief when one first discovers this – a climate change sceptic.In the world of the Heretic, global warming really is a worldwide conspiracy orchestrated by climate scientists. The play comes bristling with oft-repeated sceptic arguments, voiced by feisty maverick climate scientist Diane (says 'fuck', cracks jokes about lesbian nuns). With expertise in sea level rise, her wholesale disbelief that climate change is happening is sparked off by a discovery that sea levels are not rising around the Maldives.
She’s not convinced that sea levels are rising. She is not sure that man is causing the Earth to warm to dangerously high levels. She points out that the Romans grew vines as far north as Hadrian’s Wall and, best of all, she drives a petrol-guzzling Jaguar.
She is indeed so non-PC that a pressure group called the Sacred Earth Militia has issued her with death threats.
Richard Bean has serious points to make, not least, that scepticism about anthropogenic global warming is these days regarded by many as an unforgivable modern heresy. Dr Cassell is actually suspended from her job after her boss warns her in no uncertain terms to keep quiet about her sea-level findings as they could jeopardise funding butshe goes onto Newsnight (John Humphrys) himself puts in a highly entertaining appearance on a video screen) and airs her views.
In this scene Catherine Tickell (Polly Lister) makes an appearance as the Human Resources Officer with a short but brilliant performance.
Some might say this is a detailed debate about global warming is combined with an almost sitcom-like narrative about a hilariously student Ben Shotter (Ciaran Kellgren) who develops a crush on the lecturer’s anorexic daughter alsorefuses to attend field trips in any vehicle run on fossil fuel and cycles everywhere.
This is mirrored by Dr Diane Cassell vexed relationship with her craven boss and there is even a moment when the play seems to be on the point of turning into a hostage drama.
Cate Hamer is clearly having a ball as the sceptical scientist, delivering put-downs with great aplomb, but also becoming genuinely moving in her care for her troubled daughter Phoebe, played with sparky attack by Sophie Robinson. Stuart Fox is a comic delight as her compromised boss Professor Maloney and George Tordoff (Andrew Westfield) has a fantastic performance as a fanatically sincere, hilariously awkward environmentalist in a role as a site security for the university campus.
The Heretic is blessed with an infectious exuberance, and it is great to see the Lowry putting on a play which will amusingly offend some of the audience. Surprisingly this play on climate change is a must see, a great entertaining evening.
To book your tickets to see The Heretic visit www.thelowry.com/event/the-heretic
Ciaran Kellgren (Ben), Sophie Robinson (Phoebe), Stuart Fox (Kevin), and Cate Hamer (Diane)