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Climate activist Tamsin Omond's debut show evokes the power of hope and kindness

Climate activist and actor Tamsin Omond's debut theatre show opens at Vault Festival 2020 (28-30 January). Here they bring us up to speed with the Extinction Rebellion movement, hanging out with Greta Thunberg, and how hope and kindness is at the heart of their show, This Bitch Can Heal.

Run-Riot: The last we heard from you, you were organising a declaration of rebellion in Parliament Square. What's been happening?

Tamsin Omond: That was the start of Extinction Rebellion. One of my jobs that day was to meet up with a Swedish schoolgirl and make sure she didn't get arrested. She'd been striking from school - sitting outside the Swedish Parliament every Friday - for a couple of months and had a small following in the environmental world. She wanted her dad to drive her (in his electric car) to London so that she could speak at our declaration of rebellion. It was wild. Meeting this child who spoke with such clarity about the environmental and ecological crisis. And since that day 15 or so months ago, we've all watched in awe as she has spoken words that have woken up the world.

Run-Riot: That girl was Greta Thunberg?

Tamsin: That's right. She joined us on the streets in October and then came again during our April Rebellion to speak from the stage at Marble Arch, just before Massive Attack played the Extinction Rebellion crowd a secret gig.

Run-Riot: So, you're one of Extinction Rebellion's founders?

Tamsin: I don't know about that. There are a lot of people who were involved long before I started volunteering, but I have been able to watch it grow from the very start - when there were 30 or so people occupying Greenpeace to 5 bridges occupied in London and now, less than 15 months after its official launch, more than 300 groups in 5 continents. It's been meteoric - offering people agency - something to do about climate change that measures up with the crisis that we're in.

Run-Riot: And that's what This Bitch Can Heal is about?

Tamsin: No... This Bitch Can Heal is about getting your ego out of your activism. It's about Jack - who thinks they are the activist the world has been waiting for - but really, they need Extinction Rebellion much more than Extinction Rebellion needs them.

Run-Riot: Is that common with Extinction Rebellion activists?

Tamsin: I don't think it is. But as we create Extinction Rebellion - and any group that is trying to save the world - we can never critique enough what our reasons are for getting involved, what's driving us... I wrote This Bitch Can Heal after crashing out of the April Rebellion. I'd been organising the Marble Arch site and I watched a lot of people give everything - time, hope, so much effort and love. We created magic for over ten days but then it was over, and people emerged from the small Extinction Rebellion universes we had created into the real world - a world that is changing - but is still in no way ready for the level of change that is going to be inevitable as our world, our planet, our environments transform.

Run-Riot: You mean the 'rebellions' didn't work?

Tamsin: What would the world look like if the Extinction Rebellions had 'worked'? I think that's the difficulty of waking up to climate and ecological breakdown. You want to be able to solve it - to work towards some goal that will fix everything and make the environmental breakdown disappear. But breakdown is a process - and sadly that process is now part of our present and our future. Just look at what's happening in Australia to see the truth of that. What's not inevitable - what is still very much to play for - is how we will cope with environmental collapse: what kind of civilisations will we build and what kind of people will we become? I wrote This Bitch Can Heal because as more people become activists, I think we need new stories: no more lone heroes, we need stories of the collective and the connection between people.

Run-Riot: Then why write a one-person show?

Tamsin: That's the journey that Jack is on. They've woken up to the climate crisis and they are convinced that their activism will be The Activism that saves the world. But actually, they're just another person, limited by their unacknowledged bullshit, trying their best and freaking out. Jack spends the play pedalling their bicycle fast. By the end they are exhausted but maybe a little more clued up about what they might usefully do to prepare for everything that climate and ecological breakdown will bring.

Run-Riot: Is it a comedy or tragedy?

Tamsin: It's hopeful - but not in a cheesy way. It asks us to look at ourselves and our motives and to be gentle with what we find. I hope people will leave the theatre kinder than when they came in - or more in tune with why the most radical thing we can do this decade is to commit to being kind.

Tamsin Omond: Twitter

Pink Splat Productions: Twitter | Facebook

Pink Splat Productions present
This Bitch Can Heal
at Vault Festival 2020
28 - 30 Jan (18:00)
Info and tickets: vaultfestival.com

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