The near future. The climate emergency is gathering pace, and our generation is being judged. The jurors are children. But are they delivering justice – or just taking revenge?
The Trials offers a searing vision of the climate emergency and intergenerational conflict, as a jury of 12 to 17-year-olds hold the stage.
Dawn King's play was first performed in January 2022.
Reviews of the Play
"The centre of Dawn King’s new play is a debate about the climate crisis... yet it goes beyond this to look at intergenerational acrimony and at what counts as justice. " Suzannah Clapp, The Guardian
"Teenagers are given power of life or death in Dawn King’s gripping climate dystopia...gripping, both as an urgent imagining of how our generation will be viewed by our kids, but also a smart imagining of revolution generally" Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. This play has no central diversity message. All characters will be cast completely neutrally with regards to race, ethnicity and gender identity. The narrative encourages a range of different pronoun usage in representing a near future society. For the story arc, the play requires 12 actors who can authentically represent ages 12-17 years and 3 actors who can authentically represent ages 50s-60s.
The Trials by Dawn King is a thought-provoking and hard-hitting play that follows a group of twelve young people in the near future who are having to judge older people on how they have lived their lives and how much they have contributed to the devasting climate crisis now facing them.
As the generation most affected by the crisis they have been given the power to reach a verdict that will decide the ultimate fate of these “dinosaurs.” For some the decisions seem clear, others find it impossible to choose, but are they being swayed by their own experiences or can they work out how to judge fairly and reach an agreement.
The twelve young actors do an exemplary job of portraying the assorted characters who form the jury, dealing with conflicting emotions and priorities. The adult defendants, played by Matt Sweatman, Judi Garland and Jan Nightingale, appear in prerecorded videos on a screen at the back of the auditorium, outlining their defence of how they have lived their lives. This set up did produce a slight crick in the neck, despite the slanted seats, but also reflected the gulf between the affected youngsters and the older generation whose lifestyle decisions, however innocently made, had such devasting consequences on the planet and their children’s lives.
There is some slightly lighter relief where the jury pauses and some of the children make believe things they have never experienced or can no longer remember, such as the chilly delights of snow, and the excitement of flying in an aeroplane. These are briefly joyous scenes against a harsh backdrop. As they learn more about each other, however, and their lives outside the courtroom and their parents, secrets are slowly revealed which head towards a potentially very harrowing conclusion. In the face of inconceivably difficult decisions, who will change their mind and what will they ultimately decide? No major spoilers here, you’ll have to go watch it to find out!
There are lessons for all of us in this play, as we listen to stories of lives lead that are probably not too dissimilar from our own, and it leaves us with a lot to think about. Are we too justifying a second car and persisting in taking flights, despite the increasingly incontrovertible evidence that we are on the verge of a climate catastrophe? Should we be going vegan? Are we prioritising the right things for our children? Do they need luxury holidays and a good education or a viable climate and a sustainable planet? Guilty or not guilty? How will the next generation judge us?
Alison Manning, Elementary Whatson