Playwright Colleen Cameron spent a lot of time in Belgium, where recycling has always been second-nature – so her time in Edinburgh was something of a shock, as the recycling facilities are not at all good. Plus the UK in general doesn’t have the greatest reputation compared to other countries. All this inspired her to write Bottled Up, in a bid to be informative but in an engaging fashion.
Jeanie has developed a new passion since the birth of her daughter, Sophie: containing all of her plastic waste within her home so as not to let it get out into the world and have an adverse effect on the environment. She was seriously considering not going through with the pregnancy, so she wouldn’t be bringing a child into a world that generates 8-13 million tonnes of plastic waste each year, but now she acknowledges Sophie as the best thing to have happened to her. It’s given her a lot more time to sit enraptured at documentaries such as Blue Planet II, fuelling her determination to do what she sees as ‘her bit’. But why does Jeanie keep ignoring her phone? Is she really as together as she seems?
Given her original motive for writing the play, Bottled Up could so easily have turned into an endless list of facts, or some kind of moralising lecture. Instead, Cameron has created a compelling human story that is instantly engaging and cleverly constructed.
This level of consideration extends to the set design; upon entering the auditorium, we are faced with Jeanie sleeping on top of a pile of plastic bottles, covered in what looks like a fishing net, with more plastic waste strewn across the stage. It’s a stark visualisation of just how quickly the stuff can build up – even when you’re only catering for one adult and a newborn baby.
“Plastic is an integral part of our lives”, states Jeanie. This is sadly very much the truth. No matter how hard you try, it’s an unavoidable material in its various shapes and forms – and just like greenhouse gases before them, we haven’t fully considered the consequences of bringing all these plastic items into the environment, diving straight in rather than perfecting a way of reusing & recycling it all first.
Colleen Cameron plays the role of Jeanie herself, and her conversational tone immediately draws the audience in and warms us to her. The shocking stats about plastic waste are cleverly weaved in, so they come up naturally (like part of a real conversation) rather than being shoehorned in; Jeanie’s simply sharing her passion and horror, and we should all sit up & take notice.
My verdict? An instantly engaging one-woman show, written and performed with passion – a pertinent topic and a captivating story.
Bottled Up runs at theSpace on North Bridge (Argyll Theatre) until 18 August 2018 (10.05am, 50 min). Tickets are available online or from the box office.