Last November, Dr. Chris Rapley, one of Britain’s top climate scientists, sat center stage at the Royal Court Theatre in London, explaining the intricacies of climate change as graphs, maps, and images appeared behind him.


Called “2071,” the year Rapley’s oldest grandchild will be the age he is now, the play was the brainchild of director Katie Mitchell and playwright Duncan MacMillan. To engage audiences, MacMillan says they turned the way climate science is usually presented upside-down – first revealing tantalizing clues that it’s happening and then explaining the causes.

MacMillan: “So actually one of the big innovations was to structure it more like a whodunnit.”

Having Rapley on stage instead of an actor added to the drama.

MacMillan: “This is a man who has been to the Antarctic many, many dozens of times. And has held in his hand ice that was frozen before human beings walked around on the planet. And that’s quite an emotional, quite sensory, quite an extraordinary thing that this man has experienced. Here is a man who when he tells you about climate science, you have to listen to it and give it the respect that his authority commands.”

It’s a great example of artists and scientists working together to communicate climate change.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo: “2071” video screen capture.

More Resources
“2071” (play website)
Climate change play 2071 aims to make data dramatic
2071 five-star review – urgent call for the greatest collective action in history
What’s On Stage: 2071 (Royal Court) – ‘One of the most outrageously anti-theatrical events I’ve ever attended’
2071: What sort of story is climate change? And how should it be told?

Avatar photo

Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...