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Royal Court's 2071 splits critics

Katie Mitchell's latest production attracted reviews ranging from one to five stars

'Unsettling': Chris Rapley in 2071
© Alistair Muir

Michael Coveney

... I'm doing my best to try and make this sound interesting, which is more than Katie Mitchell's new show does. 2071 is one of the most outrageously anti-theatrical events I've ever attended. Auditions must have gone on for weeks to find the most boring and incompetent speaker in the world... Professor Chris Rapley... the talking clock is Judi Dench in comparison... The one positive thing the prof says we can do... is pray that our grandchildren will become missionary engineers and slow down the process of self-elimination. The prof almost showed a flicker of emotion at this idea, but stopped himself just in time... Had it been more interestingly presented, it could have amounted to the starkest message on a stick ever mounted at the Royal Court. Instead, it's probably the worst play ever seen on that hallowed stage.

Dominic Cavendish
Daily Telegraph

Two years after letting Cambridge scientist Professor Stephen Emmott roam a replica office environment to relay alarming information about global population growth, director Katie Mitchell presents Chris Rapley, Professor of Climate Science at University College London, in an even more back-to-basics, no-frills format... It's more Royal Society address - or TED talk - than standard Royal Court fare, yet the data imparted has the same power to churn you up as any "in-yer-face" play... It could be objected that there's nothing ground-breaking here... There's an appealing abstract video design, which offers a constantly morphing backdrop to the info-swirl, and a subtly spine-tingling soundscape too. But even this might be too much.

Michael Billington

... [it] sends you out of the theatre in a state of heightened concern... Some will argue this is not really theatre. But the idea that theatre should be exclusively reserved for fiction has been knocked on the head by a surge of documentary dramas and verbatim plays... My only complaint about the evening is that no printed text is available: a pity, since there is a mass of information to digest at a single hearing. But Professor Rapley's talk is compelling, forensic in its approach and based on scientific data rather than heated emotion. For all I know, he may be addressing the converted... if we look to theatre to increase our awareness of the human condition, the evening succeeds on all counts. A lot of theatre provides optional pleasure. This talk, which deserves wide dissemination, is better than good: it is necessary.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard

It's an unsettling companion to Stephen Emmott's Ten Billion, staged at the Royal Court... Rapley and [Duncan] Macmillan have created something that holds out at least a crumb of hope. Rapley delivers what's sometimes called a "performance lecture", though in this case the word "performance" feels out of place... Rapley emphasises that he's a scientist, obliged to be objective rather than a polemicist. He lets the data speak for itself. But the approach feels too dry... the dominant tone is glumly impersonal - sufficient to prompt thought but not to provoke action.

Aleks Sierz
The Stage

... it explains in a relatively clear way the various stages of the Earth's warming... Occasionally, just occasionally, there is a human touch... Given that many climate change targets are tied to 2050, it's a way of focusing on future generations... At his best, Rapley mentions personal moments from his childhood and his career, but the majority of the lecture is dry, dull and completely unengaging. Rapley, who starts off hesitantly but soon settles into his monologue, lacks charisma and the show has neither conflict nor dynamism... this evening is neither theatrical nor exciting. The recital of facts, however devastating, is never gripping nor particularly inspiring. Why is the Royal Court hosting such devised work, and not commissioning playwrights to create new metaphor-rich plays about this subject?