🎭 So... You Knew?
📍 Barons Court Theatre, 28a Comeragh Road, London, W14 9HR
🗓 Thursday 13th July 2023
FUNNY BUT OH SO POWERFUL
On Thursday, I went to see So… You Knew? at Barons Court Theatre. This marked my first solo theatre outing since I started reviewing performances alongside my good friend Neill of Pink Prince Theatre. And what a brilliant performance it was to begin my journey as a theatre reviewer.
The play captivates audiences from the outset as compelling real-life footage plays out on the back wall, highlighting just how long people in big corporate conglomerates have known about global warming.
Bartolomeo Bartolini, the writer and actor who plays the protagonist Willie, then leaps onto the stage dancing to upbeat music - a strange juxtaposition against the images behind. But it soon becomes clear how this foreshadows the poignant theme of ignorance that continues to crop up throughout the rest of the play.
Willie, at the beginning, is an ambitious employee of oil and gas company EcsonWobil, a play on the real-life company ExxonMobil. Both he and a colleague named Benjamin, whose voice is heard through the theatre’s speakers, had been researching the state of the planet and had made some startling and very real projections about global warming.
After presenting the findings to his boss at EcxonWobil, Willie’s research is dismissed and he’s instead offered a job in the company’s Public Relations team. He takes it, and the play then dives into the chaos that is his life. His research and focus on the state of the planet take a backseat when he tackles life’s milestones and complications. After this, the voice of Benjamin, and anyone else who serves as a reminder about Willie’s former priority, is cut off mid-sentence when they try to intervene.
Events unfold and years tick by at an alarming rate during the 80 minute runtime - all the while the planet’s worsening state is projected behind through real-life footage of oil spills, forest fires and extreme weather.
Despite the seriousness of the topic, the play is full of humour and generated many laughs from the audience. It may feel strange for a play about climate change to be littered with jokes and quips, but I felt it helped the audience to stay engaged throughout, which in turn made the serious revelations more memorable and easier to digest. It’s also a testament to the wittiness and layered nature of the script.
My favourite part of the play was the scene set in the future in 2045. Bartolini plays a news reader, reporter and weather man, speaking ironically and lightheartedly about the devastating situation in which he finds himself. We may have laughed in the audience, but the important message that Bartolini was seeking to articulate certainly sunk in.
In this one-man show, Bartolini effortlessly transitions between Willie’s various life stages and also plays multiple characters. Despite the play’s fast pace, it was easy for the audience to keep up with the passing of time. For some, the pace may have felt a bit rushed but for me, it simply highlighted the urgency of the situation we’re in when it comes to our climate. Time is ticking.
The fact that Bartolini chose to base the play on real events and has put so much time and effort into compiling the footage that is played in the background means that although you’re in a theatre - the epitome of escapism - you can’t for one second forget that we’re talking about our planet and shared home. And this, I feel, makes the play all the more powerful.
This link between us and the events in the play is made even more explicit when Willie engages the audience and invites them in on the action in the form of a quiz. It’s a move that I feel worked really well in the intimate setting of Barons Court Theatre.
Thankfully, Bartolini’s play ends on a hopeful note, letting us know that it’s not too late to save the planet. Instead of leaving feeling anxious and helpless about the state we find ourselves in, you’ll hopefully walk out feeling empowered and educated as I did.
I’d thoroughly recommend this play to anyone. It is clearly well researched, and Bartolini is an immensely skilled actor whose passion for the subject shines through in his performance.
There is just one more performance of So… You Knew? at Barons Court Theatre which is tonight! Head to www.baronscourttheatre.com to book tickets.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My ticket for this performance was gifted by Bartolomeo Bartolini who invited me to review the production on behalf of Pink Prince Theatre. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in my star rating or the content of my review.
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY:
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hour 20 minutes, with no interval