Guest Blog: BOTTLED UP – The play about Single-Use Plastics

26th July 2018

Ahead of this year's Edinburgh Fringe, theatre-maker Colleen Cameron talks about her new play Bottled Up - a solo-show that explores eco-anxiety, our dependency on plastics in day-to-day life and considers the irony of living in a world of plenty.

I chose a career in theatre because we can question, dream and explore what it means to live in society today, and immediately impact an audience. Art has a place in the ongoing dialogue about the environment, and it transcends background, nationality and age. My aim is to make work that will encourage people to see how they consume as part of a bigger picture, and to become more sustainable in their choices by informing them, through story-telling, about the enormity of our problem with single-use plastics.

Bottled Up is my first writing project, after training on the BA Acting course at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS) and Le Conservatoire National Superieur d’Art Dramatique, in Paris. I grew up in Brussels, where a penal law to get people to recycle plastic and paper has been enforced since the mid-nineties, which Britain is yet to do.

Bottled Up will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Camden Fringe this summer, and I’ve just finished reworking the script, design and sound at NTS Rockvilla with the Bottled Up team, a brilliant group of talented friends from RCS.

What’s it all about?

Bottled Up is a solo-show that explores eco-anxiety, our dependency on plastics in day-to-day life and considers the irony of living in a world of plenty, through the eyes of Jeanie; a young single-mother who hoards plastic bottles. The form of eco-anxiety that Bottled Up explores is an exaggerated fear for the pressure we are putting on the planet’s eco-system and resources, but Jeanie belittles how serious her mental-health issues are, denying the reasons for why at all costs; she’s bottled up. The monologue is full of twists and turns, and has many different threads to it, which explore these themes in an intimate, funny and shocking manner.

Un-bottling Bottled Up

I was quite shocked at how poor recycling in both Glasgow and Edinburgh is compared to other capital cities in Europe when I first moved to Scotland. It was very apparent to me that there was a disregard surrounding the matter, particularly in a student context. It was a combination of the lack of recycling facilities where I lived in Edinburgh, the sheer amount of food in the café I worked in, and my own feeling of being completely overwhelmed by the amount of personal objects I was sheltering in my tiny garret room, that was the final push that made me write

I returned to Brussels, wrote Bottled Up, and first performed a work-in-progress sharing in February 2018 in what was, coincidentally, one of the first factories to make plastic in Brussels. There was another odd coincidence when an episode of Blue Planet II mirrored my character’s situation. There is so much information about global warming and the dangers that future generations face that we tend to block it out; it’s too much for one person to deal with. Yet, stick the issue on TV, lulled by David Attenborough’s voice, and we listen. If anything were to confirm that art has a place in encouraging a more sustainable way of living, that would be it.

Engaging policy-makers through theatre

In January 2018 the EU implemented the Plastics Strategy, designed to encourage the circular economy of single-use plastics. After my first work-in-progress sharing in February, I was commissioned to write a twenty-minute version of Bottled Up as part of an event on the Plastics Strategy at the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), in Brussels, where the play was praised by members of NGOs and those who write EU laws, for its humanity in dealing with such a vast subject.

The public I performed for were a wide, “non-art” audience; perhaps I was preaching to the converted. What would be interesting would be to perform Bottled Up to an audience of policy makers who are against changing our relationship to plastic in some way; to those who have something to lose if the production of plastic were to diminish.

Dr Werner Bosmans, the Coordinator of the EU Plastics Strategy, also came to see my first work-in-progress sharing along with the rest of the legislative team from DG Environment (European Commission). When I spoke to him, he stressed that the first substitute that people think of when wanting to replace plastic, which is glass, is not a better material for the planet either.

The answer does not lie in replacing one material with another, but rethinking and reinventing how we consume and transport goods. How would consuming locally-grown food have an impact on our waste, for example? There are some brilliant initiatives to support this that exist in Scotland already. For example, Locavore in South Glasgow is a brilliant place to buy groceries without waste, the SHRUB Co-op in Edinburgh, has a swap and reuse hub which encourages reusing items of clothing and books, amongst other things, and the Remakery, also in Edinburgh.

Plastic is only so present in our lives because it’s continuously being sold as a necessary material for our way of living. It is not. There are ways of living with zero-waste, and it just takes a little effort to start with. I’m nowhere near it myself, but I’m steadily choosing to replace plastic items with a zero-waste alternative.

Bottled Up engages audiences of all ages and different nationalities; the story moves people, and brings them together whilst encouraging them to rethink how they interact with single-use plastics. All we need now are people to come and see it!

Bottled Up is featured in our Green Picks and Opportunities at the 2018 Festival Fringe and runs from 3 – 11th August/ 13th – 18th August at TheSpaceUK. For tickets and further information visit the Fringe website or watch a short video about the play.

Want to find out more about tackling single-use plastics?

Check out a quick and simple presentation Dr Werner Bosmans created on how to implement a more circular economy for single-use plastic.

Creative Carbon Scotland’s resource Single Use Plastics: The Alternatives explains where the major issues lie with single use plastics and what alternatives may be available for cultural organisations.

Image credit: Colleen Cameron

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