The Montreal Climate March
as seen by a theatre reviewer

Could Greta Thurnberg be our modern-day Joan of Arc?

By Byron Toben
Photos Robert Del Tredici

Greta Thurnberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student-activist against climate change, has received a ton of publicity over the past two years with her Fridays For Future. Starting with her lone vigil outside the Swedish Parliament, growing throughout Europe and culminating with her sailboat arrival in New York, it reached a crescendo with her arrival in Montreal on September 27, welcomed by an estimated 500,000 marching supporters.

Trump personae non Greta - WestmountMag.caAlong the way, she addressed the United Nations conference on the climate, meeting many world leaders, including (sort of), climate change denier Donald Trump.

Montreal mayor Valerie Plante, who also attended that conference, invited Ms. Thunberg to visit Montreal as well. She arrived, driven by her father in an electric car (lent by Arnold Schwarzenegger!) and had a private meeting with Ms. Plante as well as with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Green party leader Elizabeth May, environmentalist David Suzuki and many other political figures joined in the march.

Concordia professor and nuclear bomb photographer Robert Del Tredici took myriad shots and granted Westmount Magazine first publication rights. And Montreal’s theatre community also participated as Mainline/Fringe producer Amy Blackmore added several shots on her Facebook page.

My theatrical thoughts…

Greta as Joan of Arc - WestmountMag.caOne placard depicted Greta in armour as a sort of modern-day Joan of Arc. I had also thought of this, G.Bernard Shaw’s great work, Saint Joan, being my own favorite of his some 62 plays.

Indeed, the parallels are striking.

Both were only 16 when inspired to save France or the planet, respectively. (Joan by heavenly voices, Greta by scientific conclusions.)

Both met derision at the start. (Joan for wearing men’s body armor, Greta for having pigtails.)

Both were subject to the communications of their time. (Illiterate Joan limited to letters written by others, Greta aided by instant mass social media.)

Both were subject to the transportation of their time. (Joan to travel by foot or cart – even “stealing” a bishop’s horse to ride to a battle in time to inspire the troops to victory, Greta limited to forgoing airplanes, using bikes or electric cars.)

Both developed a quasi-religious following (Joan by invoking God, Greta by invoking scientific studies.)

Joan was burnt by fire at the stake for her efforts at age 19. We hope that Greta, and the rest of us, are not drowned by rising waters during 2019.

Monreal Climate March - September 29, 2019 –

Besides Shaw, me thought of Hendrik Ibsen’s famous environmental drama, Enemy Of The People. Therein, Doctor Stockman, queried about why he alone is so sure that local waters are contaminated, replies with the great line, “Before the many can know, one must know!”

Greta Thurnberg’s action might well be similarly explained by “Before the many can protest, one must protest”.

Note: Greta’s father and grandfather are both actors. Was she named, perhaps, after Sweden’s great actress export, Greta Garbo?Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre –

Read more articles from Byron Toben

Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated web sites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.

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