Vault Festival preview: How To Save A Rock

Welcome to another preview from this year’s Vault Festival. How To Save A Rock is playing in the Pit from 18-23 February at 6pm and is produced by Pigfoot Theatre.

Described as “a wild polar chase, through peat bogs and protests”, How To Save A Rock embodies Pigfoot’s ethos of making collaborative, carbon-neutral theatre.

Director Bea Udale-Smith answers a few questions about the production.

Publicity image for How To Save A Rock.

The Vault Festival is doing a lot to raise awareness of climate change this year. Did this influence your decision to perform How To Save A Rock there?

Definitely! We decided to apply after hearing about the new Staging Change Award for VAULT Festival, one of several incredible eco steps The Vaults have taken this year.

The award is for a production which is environmentally-conscious in its content and delivery – which seemed to fit our bill!

Our show is about a woman who receives a letter from the last polar bear in the wild, and decides to go save it. It’s a super silly, upbeat, eco-magical realism look at how we respond to social responsibility and eco-anxiety – which hopefully shines some light on how to have hope in the face of the climate crisis.

But, crucially, it’s also entirely carbon-neutral (more about this later!). We were very fortunate to receive the Staging Change Award for VAULT Festival 2020, and we’re thrilled to be part of VAULT Festival’s eco-week (18-23 February).

We’d definitely recommend checking out the other fantastic productions, discussions, workshops, and eco-parties happening that week!

The show is a musical comedy and described as “feel-good”; was it a deliberate choice to deliver an important message in a light-hearted way?

I think we knew from our first R&D (16 months ago!) that we wanted the show to deliver a positive message of hope about the climate crisis, which tackled the issues in as light-hearted a way as it dared.

But, over the following year and a half, it’s sometimes been really hard to deliver a light-hearted take on something which is such an urgent, petrifying global emergency – and one which has already had devastating and horrific effects, particularly in the Global South.

However, we believe that it’s absolutely vital to overcome our anxieties around the climate crisis and to come together to fight the real eco-criminals – eco-journalist Mary Heglar (@MaryHeglar) says this far more beautifully and eloquently than we ever could.

If our play, even in the smallest way, can help people do that, we’re happy.

Tell me a bit more about the show’s carbon-neutral credentials. I know the Pit can be a bit damp and hot, was it significant to stage How To Save A Rock in this space?

So our lights are powered by 2 bicycles, which we cycle live on stage (and which our audience are more than welcome to have a go on!), and by solar-power – so fingers-crossed next week’s a sunny one!

All our sound is created live, through unamplified human voices, an accordion, and found objects. And finally, production materials are made from upcycled or recycled objects – and anything which has to be bought is bought second-hand.

It’s definitely important to us not to stage the show in a conventional theatre-space – and so we’re thrilled to be performing at the Vaults.

Our show is also very intimate and relies on close proximity between performers and audience, so the Pit’s fantastic. Our story’s filled with extreme weather – fires and floods – so the heat and damp actually work great to create that sense!

Cast of How To Save A Rock. Courtesy Pigfoot Theatre.
Cast of How To Save A Rock. Courtesy Pigfoot Theatre.

Why set this show in Scotland?

The show’s actually set up the entire length of the UK – the characters start in Bristol, get stranded by flooding near Preston, trip into the middle of a protest in Glasgow and, finally, arrive in the Flow Country (an expanse of peatland at the top of Scotland) to find their polar bear!

Once we started doing research into the sites of natural beauty throughout the UK, we knew we had to end the show in Scotland.

We’ve all fallen a bit in love with the Flow Country’s peatland, which – as well as being absolutely beautiful – stores 400 million tonnes of carbon (almost double the amount stored in all the UK’s woodland). They’re such a perfect example of how we must look after our world – so it can look after us!

What else have Pigfoot Theatre got planned for the future?

Quite a bit! We’re developing workshops around the science of the show for kids, and on sustainable theatre-making for teenagers and young adults. We hope to tour our show from May 2020 onwards – hopefully stretching the length of the country, as our characters do!

We’re also rolling up our sleeves and getting cracking on our next carbon-neutral production – it’s going to be a lot more complicated, but hopefully even more fun for the audience to watch! We can’t say much more about it right now, other than it’s true that sometimes you can’t wait for the storm to pass – sometimes you’ve got to dance in the rain…

Cast of How To Save A Rock. Courtesy Pigfoot Theatre.

My thanks to Bea!

You can book for How To Save A Rock at the Vault Festival website.