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Dr Matt Winning, blessed with an excellent surname, is an environmental economist with a PhD in climate change policy as well as a stand-up comedian. In his show ‘It’s The End Of The World As We Know It’, he combines these two aspects of his life to increase awareness about climate change in an accessible and entertaining way. It was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and is currently touring all around the UK, arriving at the Nuffield Theatre on November 13th.
I am very much invested in the state of the planet currently- as I feel everyone should be, what with the fact that we live on it and all. So, when I first heard about this performance, I was excited to see if it could handle the topic tactfully while still implementing the element of comedy. I had high expectations, and Winning did not disappoint.
The setup was simple. Winning stood on an empty stage, lit up with warm light, and assisted by a powerpoint presentation. He explained climate change in easy to understand terms with the help of simple diagrams, meaning that audiences with little to no prior knowledge could quickly grasp the topic. This element made me feel reminiscent of school assemblies, but he punctuated his explanation with jokes which suddenly shattered any school-like illusion.
When I say that he used jokes, I don’t mean that every so often he would remember that he was a comedian and throw in a knock-knock joke. I mean that this guy somehow managed to put a humorous spin on every point that he made. With pop culture references (a favourite of mine being the couple minutes spent addressing the slight truth in Year 3000 by Busted) and countless f-bombs, Winning reduced the cognitive dissonance by building a rapport with the audience.
After demonstrating the bleak direction that the planet is currently heading in, Winning showed us a vast list of things that we can all do to help out. He showed examples of some of the changes that he has made himself, including those in his diet. This part included an anecdote of how odd it feels to put oat milk in porridge which, as a fellow oat milk drinker, I have also thought of on many an occasion. Though I am glad he addressed this, I feel like he didn’t elaborate on why animal agriculture is harmful, which would have helped to encourage others to follow his lead.
Towards the end, Winning showed us some recent examples of ways in which people have stood up against climate change, most notably the acts of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion. The show finished with a video clip of a 15-year-old speaking about how we can- and need to- make changes to save the environment. It reminded us not only that there is hope, providing that we act fast, but also of the heartbreaking truth that people at 15 and younger are having to think of, to quote the name of the show, the end of the world as we know it.
I feel like the show ended abruptly. It didn’t occur to me that it had finished until the people around me were leaving their seats. Perhaps the end of the show could have been final but, at the risk of sounding pretentious, the way that he did it reminded me of climate change. You don’t think that it’s going to happen anytime soon because it comes so slowly, but once it’s over, it’s all over.