In the last couple of days, the government has announced the deposit return scheme, which gives a small amount of cash to those who return their used bottles and cans rather than throw them away. This move comes hot on the heels of the Refill London initiative, which will see retailers and businesses offer to refill water bottles in a bid to cut down on plastic waste, and various companies – from Wagamamas and Wetherspoons, to Costa, McDonalds and London City Airport – vowing to ban or phase out plastic straws. Little Angel Theatre’s Junk, an interactive production following the journey of Bertie the Bottle, could not be more timely.
Like the magical Santa’s Little Workshop, this is a promenade performance that winds its way round the Little Angel Studios, now transformed into L.A.R.C: the Little Angel Recycling Centre. With a hard hat and high vis vest on, we are invited on a tour of the facilities, to be followed by an in-depth presentation detailing the minutiae of the recycling process. But when the supervisor steps into the Crushing Room for a moment, worker Scoop (Lori Hopkins) shows us the secret space where items marked for incineration actually end up…
Designer Emma Tompkins’ set immerses us in a recycling plant – from the health and safety posters on the walls to the bored employee staring at CCTV footage in the corner – before sneaking us into Scoop’s den of repurposed rubbish, crowned with a chandelier of plastic watering cans. This intimate, interactive environment is a physical reminder that the issues at hand are close to home for all of us, as are the solutions, whether that’s sorting materials into the correct recycling bins or seeing the potential in a pile of discarded junk.
Plenty of children’s plays in recent years have focused on similar themes, but while some have hammered home an environmental message at the expense of the theatrical experience, Junk gets the balance just right. It feels fitting to talk about recycling through a medium that so often reimagines objects to tell a story: the ingenious puppets in Junk – from Bertie himself, with his bottle cap hands, to an umbrella octopus – really do inspire audiences to breathe new life into old stuff rather than chuck it away.
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