Do you ever think about what it means to lose something forever? Someone you love? A treasured possession? Or an entire species?
Artistic collaborators Natalie Bellingham and Daniele Pennati met by chance in 2016 and went on to establish an international creative collective, jointly developing work despite living more than 900 miles apart – one in Yorkshire and the other in Milan, Italy.
The result is The Polar Bear (is Dead), a playful exploration of loss and survival in our current precarious landscape, opening in the Bramall Rock Void studio space at Leeds Playhouse on 14-15 April. Ultimately full of hope, it includes a plant, a polar bear, the Spice Girls and a conversation with Natalie’s mum about the end of the world.
The show is a Zoom conversation shared directly with the audience – Natalie performing live in the theatre while Daniele performs digitally on screen from Italy – illustrated by photos, videos and memories from over the years.
Originally conceived as a compromise to enable them to make the show during covid travel restrictions, they decided to keep the format even when restrictions were lifted to underline their ecological message. Face-to-face preparation for the show has all been achieved using surface transport – no flights – and, if the show is taken to Italy as planned, the roles will be reversed, with Daniele live on stage and Natalie zooming in from Yorkshire.
“After a grim few years in the arts, we're really looking forward to bringing the show to Leeds,” said Natalie. “At one point this project seemed an impossible dream, but we're here, we're doing it and the enthusiasm for the work and support from the Playhouse has been uplifting.
“In many ways the show is about change, another thing the pandemic presented us all with that we didn't ask for. The show looks at the changes we face as humans globally and, closer to home, as individuals.
“We want our work to have a life after the show ends, in the bar later, in front of the TV the next night, wherever, through conversations. We'd love people to chat about what we have and how we can enjoy it whilst it's here – and how we might hold onto it for as long as possible before things change .”
Nat and Dani present THE POLARBEAR (IS DEAD) Bramall Rock Void, Leeds Playhouse 14-15April For Tickets and Info CLICK HERE
Images: David Lindsay