The crude oil mechanicals
Like our illustrious Shakespearian ancestors (namedropping, I know….) we are a group of simple working and non-working folk with limited thespian experience but plenty of enthusiasm. We are less mercenary than our forbears, our aim is to engage with audiences in bringing to life dilemmas around climate change. We have taken to the streets with stories involving protagonists with different relationships to climate change, both victims, champions, perpetrators, and, like most of us, people in between. We involve the audiences in our stories, encouraging both action and reflection. We may use outlandish costumes and masks.
Barclays Action July 2019
We were born in July 2019, inspired by the Barclays Action Group, part of Lewes XR. Within two memorable weeks, our group formed, we dreamed up, worked on, wrote and performed “Mr Barclay and the Earth” We presented this play twice on Cliffe Bridge on 20th July 2019. Please look at the pictures, and even the video if you have time, but in brief, an innocent customer is lured by Mr Barclay, the friendly, community-minded local banker, to open an account. The transaction is interrupted by the Fracking Team employed by Mr Barclay to frack for oil in Cliffe High Street. Despite Mr Barclay’s attempts to argue his green credentials, we witness a struggle between the dark and lethal monster obsessed by money who is Mr Barclay’s pet, and the beautiful earth itself, who is lassooed and tormented by the monster. The protests of the audience chase away Barclay and his frackers. Frack off, Barclay!
October Rebellion, Central London – Trafalgar Square, Horseguards Parade, The Sanctuary (outside Westminster Abbey)
Mr Barclays was itself a rehearsal to get the company prepared for the big one. We devised and produced a new play, “Mr Everybody and the Banker”, a play in three scenes, to support the October Rebellion. At 9am on Wednesday 9th October, six members of the Crudes gathered in Victoria Embankment Gardens, assembled their props, including the now legendary Fracking Tower, and marched to join the mayhem of the October Rebellion. We performed our play in three settings, raising morale amongst the encampments where people were being arrested, sometimes even during the play. It was an amazing experience performing for some very courageous people.
The story in brief — Mr Everybody starts the play as a naïve but concerned bystander. He has a voyage of discovery, starting at his local bank, crossing the English countryside and eventually reaching the North Pole. He meets the Banker everywhere, busy wreaking ecological havoc. As the Banker tries to befuddle him with excuses and misinformation, Mr Everybody is aided by the superhero Science Flash, who hurls truth bombs to shatter these lies. The Banker in turn calls on his superhero, Propagandor, with his bewitching lies. A monumental battle ensues, with the superheroes hurling truth and lies at each other. However the yells of the audience turn the tide. Mr Everybody is welcomed into XR.
School Hill, Lewes, December 12th
Returning to our home town, we performed Mr Everybody during Late Night Shopping for the people of Lewes, raising our voices to drown out the brass band playing festive carols. We played at the top of School Hill, just down the road from (but not too disrespectfully close to) the War Memorial. Another iconic venue!
This year has presented a series of challenges. First of all, some of us felt big despair about climate change following the Election results. Secondly, we realised that our aim for 2019, of informing and firing up the public about climate change, had been largely achieved. Everyone knows about it now. So what is the role now of an XR Street Theatre that aims to tell stories to support change?
Imagine Festival, formerly July 2020, now July 2021
One of the new aims for XR in 2020 is to help to create the world we want to see, and to work with other organisations to support this. The Crude Oil Mechanicals accepted the invitation to be part of this festival to involve still more people of Lewes in working to prevent ecological breakdown. We began to work on a new piece, provisionally called “Our Health.” We departed from our previous themes which pitched our side against the dark forces beyond us, and wanted to look at some of our own interior conflicts, between the desire we all have to protect what we need to keep for ourselves, and the need to share some of that with others who are losing what they have due to climate change. As the piece was shaping up after a couple of meetings, our next challenge was lockdown. After considering whether “Our Health” could be adapted to digital media, we decided that the Crudes’ strength is in our physical presence engaging with live audiences, so for now we are reluctantly on furlough (unpaid).
Each play we produce is a response to a particular moment, so it is unlikely that “Our Health” will come to fruition. The world that gave birth to it is already gone. Recent events are changing our perspectives. However, when we return, our next production will respond to the world as it will be then.
Please join us
If you are looking forward to a time when we can safely roam our streets in proximity, if you are inspired by what you have seen here, and can imagine a role for yourself in the Crudes, either on the stage, supporting, or making costumes or props, please do contact us: Mechanicals@xrlewes.org
Thanks to all of our XR members who have contributed to these productions!