Richard Bean does not patronise his audience: he shows academics talking to their students and each other in scientific language, and although we may not be au fait with all the terms, by the end of the play, we do understand something about the state of science in this country. More importantly, this is not, as has been suggested in some quarters, a ‘climate denial play’. Nevertheless it is polemical, warning against dogma from any source. As Dr Cassell points out at the beginning of the play, the planet will be just fine, it is the human race that needs saving.
We are given a great set up by the end of the first half – death threats to our ‘heretical’ heroine, pressure not to publish her work which may undermine the case for climate change, and finally a suspension for appearing on Newsnight (a great digital cameo from Jeremy Paxman). We expect some kind of pay-off but the second half takes us to a remote cottage on boxing day with Dr Cassell struggling with her own personal issues. There is no ‘Insider’ – style wheeling and dealing here, and no vindication of either side. Even when there is a revelation, the ramifications are not quite what we would expect.
We suspect this one will divide the critics, and certainly there are flaws and bagginess in places, but the play deserves a spell in the West End, not least for being an original drama with humour, excellent dialogue, and a great cast headed by Juliet Stevenson, whose principled intensity is a perfect foil for James Fleet’s pragmatic and world-weary boss.