Birdman's tale inspires National

Play based on lone scientist's 40-year study of Alaskan guillemots

Every spring for the last 40 years, American environmental scientist George Divoky has migrated to an isolated cabin on the remote Alaskan isle of Cooper Island, to study black guillemot seabirds.

In recent years global warming has caused puffins and polar bears to move to Cooper Island. Both species feed on guillemot chicks, meaning Mr Divoky's 40-year study, one of the longest-running seabird studies in history, is under threat. But while Mr Divoky's passion might be dying, his story will live on. Now, the scientist is "direct inspiration" for key scenes in Greenland, a play about climate change opening next month at London's National Theatre. "I came across Divoky's story in an article in The New York Times and his tale fascinated me," said Greenland co-writer Jack Thorne. "I took the idea of how he lived his life and then created my character."

Mr Divoky discovered a rare colony of black guillemots on Cooper Island in 1972. Returning to the isle regularly, he soon discovered that retreating sea ice was causing a decline in population.

The scientist spends three months a year sleeping in a small tent, warming himself over a small stove. Recently unwanted visitors have made conditions even more difficult.

"I had not seen polar bears on Cooper Island for the first 27 years I was on the island," Mr Divoky told the BBC earlier this year. "I would walk around without a gun. [Now] when they show up my first reaction is I have to get the gun and I am concerned for my own safety." The bears also disturb guillemot nests and prey on the birds' young.

The play's cast and crew have interviewed Mr Divoky along with Science Museum director Professor Chris Rapley, former Environment Secretary David Miliband and Labour Party leader Ed Miliband, who until May was the Government's Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

"I didn't want to write a biographical account so I didn't interview him but I know some of the cast spoke to him about the production," Mr Thorne added. "My section of the play is about people living in the Arctic extremes, about someone who has devoted their life to something that is ultimately about destruction."

"We feel it's really important that the National Theatre is part of the debate on climate change, both in terms of what we should be doing as individuals and as a society," said Greenland's dramaturg and National Theatre associate director, Ben Power. "We are not claiming we have the answers. We think it's a fascinating topic and, using theatre, we're giving people something to think about, hopefully in an entertaining way. It's about provoking conversation."

According to Mr Power, the play, collaboratively penned by up-and-coming writers Mr Thorne, Moira Buffini, Matt Charman and Penelope Skinner, is a "semi-documentary piece covering everything from political solutions to global politics, the recent UN climate summit in Cancun, changes in populations and part of it is natural scientists out in the field".

The Miliband brothers, David and Ed, spoke to the writers while on a day-trip to the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change in Exeter.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?