Plan B/C/D/E: turning climate anxiety into a survival strategy

“I don’t want Mumbai to die,” says actor Meghana AT, whose new interactive Zoom performance is a response to global warming

The performance is Meghana’s ode to Mumbai (image credit: Anisha Lanewala)

By Reema Gowalla

Climate anxiety is real. The ecological catastrophe that we are inching toward is causing a meltdown among young people, putting their mental well-being at risk. Intervention and activism aside, global warming issues have also found interpretation in the form of theatre in recent times, but at this point we may need more plays with a green theme.

Deeply worried about an apocalyptic tidal surge that will swallow up her city Mumbai in not many years from now, theatre-maker, writer and actor Meghana AT has devised a performance that goes beyond the drills of an engaging eco-drama to reflect the basic human instinct to fight back and find ways to survive. It tackles the question of how people — in this case, Mumbaikars — can cope with the magnitude of climate crisis.

As the title suggests, ‘Plan B/C/D/E’ is a strategy to survive the 2050 monsoon when 90% of Mumbai is predicted to get submerged due to the alarmingly rising seawater levels.

“I think most people are still talking about climate change very casually. But the maps released as part of the latest study contextualise the urgency of the issue,” says Meghana, adding, “It is a scary thought because it involves my future. In 2050, I’ll be the age that my mother is right now, and that’s not the age I would want to die. While I cannot stop the city from going under water nor can I rely on the government to save our lives, I need to have a backup plan to live through the floods.”

In this one-hour-long Zoom performance, plan A refers to the ‘leave it, we’ll see whatever happens’ approach, while Meghana engages in constant dialogue with the audience to improvise plan B, C, D and E in an effort to somehow survive the catastrophe.

The solo piece was originally designed as a living-room-style performance

Now reimagined for the virtual space, ‘Plan B/C/D/E’ was originally conceptualised as a living-room-style performance. It’s a research-based piece, which was first commissioned about two years ago by the Mumbai Art Room to be staged as part of an exhibition, called ‘Mutarerium’. Later, there were shows in Delhi too.

“Then, when I was in Czech Republic, completing my Master’s Degree in Authorial Acting and Pedagogy at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, I managed to do about three shows before the pandemic hit hard,” says the actor.

So, was it easy to translate the show to digital language? “Not really. And that’s the reason I took a while to decide to go online with the performance. I didn’t want to make the transition just for the sake of it. The play was designed as a conversation for an intimate space with a handful of audience members, where I constantly encourage them to interact with me. On Zoom that might be a bit tricky, but we’ll use the chat window and other means to keep communicating. The script and the proposition of the performance are mindfully tweaked to let the interaction flow,” says Meghana. She’s being assisted by Kaushikee Gupta, who is the stage and tech manager for the upcoming shows.

An ode to Meghana’s city, it’s a coincidence that ‘Plan B/C/D/E’ always happens to be staged during the monsoon season. The show is slated to take place on August 14 and 15 and September 4 and 5, at 6 pm. You can book your tickets here.

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