To celebrate the end of Plastic Free July 2019, the Two Oceans Aquarium tried something a little different. With the help of two of Cape Town’s foremost dramatists, Clare Stopford and Veronica Baxter, we staged a public “play for the planet” called From Home to Ocean. But this was no ordinary play …

With the aim of unravelling the complexities of plastic pollution in the ocean from the vantage point of an everyday Cape Town family, this play offered audience members an opportunity to intervene in the everyday choices that impact on the health of the sea. Taking into account all the difficult choices facing us today, the different attitudes to plastic, and the nuances of modern family dynamics, this play truly brought the plastic crisis “home” in a way that we have not been seen before. 

After performing the 20-minute, three-act scripted play, the actors started the same play again, but this time opened the floor to the audience, allowing them to shout “STOP” when they disagreed with an action or a statement on stage. Our audience really got into the swing of things and intervened several times, often replacing the actors on stage themselves in order to take action in a scene that required a change.

As the night progressed, several themes emerged that characterise our daily experiences with plastic. From choices at the grocery store to difficult economic realities and the power of political pressure, no topic was off the table. Feelings of eco-depression, hopes for change, and a desire to reconnect with the environment all surfaced as authentic and meaningful emotions. We are filled with optimism after hearing the thoughts and fears, and the innovative ideas, from our audience.

The actors were changed – in some instances it was their words, actions and attitudes, and in other instances, the actor was replaced by one of the members of the audience. This brought home the message that we are all able to change - whether that means our attitudes towards the environment, our actions, or how we speak about the crisis we are facing.

From Home to Ocean reiterated the fact that our voices are powerful. We can all speak the truth we need to when it comes to plastic, the state of the environment, and our responsibility and place within the current crisis. Along with our voices, our wallets are the most powerful weapon we have to fight this battle. Where and what we decide to buy determines what is being manufactured because demand will dictate supply.

Given that our focus for this year’s Plastic Free July was on the youth, the interaction on the evening were made more pertinent by the fact that the audience, and many of those who took to the stage to participate in the play, were young people. This generation is proving to be a fearless and escalating voice against the systems and players which are driving the ecological crisis facing humanity. As is the case around the world, the youngsters who called out “STOP” and stood up to replace one of the actors in the play, showed that they are no longer willing to accept the status quo. They are bold and vocal, energised and determined, and want those in power to be held accountable and to make decisions which favour of a healthy planet. They want to be heard, they want change, they want action  – after all, their future is at stake.

In the end, From Home to Ocean was about having a catalytic effect. We can no longer remain as spectators to this crisis. We have to become “spect-actors”. We have to step in and make the changes we want to see.  

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