The Shell Trial

Theatremakers Anoek Nuyens and Rebekka de Wit have initiated a long-term collaboration with the NGO Friends of the Earth Netherlands in the frame of an ongoing lawsuit against Shell.

Friends of the Earth Netherlands was founded by a member of the Club of Rome in the seventies and has now 100.000 active members. They are famous for their provocative actions, but also known for a series of climate lawsuits. Last year they announced a new case: they will sue oil giant Royal Dutch Shell for climate change. They demand that it stops its polluting activities and adjusts its operational management radically.

It’s a unique case, because it is the first time in history a company like Shell is held responsible for climate change and is sued for it. This means there is no jurisprudence and therefore nobody can predict how this will go nor how it will end or what the outcome will be. To nevertheless be prepared, lawyers organize so-called ‘mocktrials’. Here they invite colleagues and law-students to practice the trial. These mocktrials are always behind closed doors. We, the public, only hear about the case, when it’s in front of the judge.

And that’s a pity in the opinion of Nuyens and De Wit. Because although the lawsuit is still far ahead, when it will be there, it will become big, complicated and incredibly important. Therefore, Nuyens and De Wit think that not only lawyers should be prepared, but also we, the public, should be. Because the world is in the hands of people who know their lines best. In this perspective they organize a series of mocktrials in theatres. All important players who are involved in this case will tell their story. Think about players like the government, the consumer, the citizen, the media, the activist, but also future generations and the earth itself.

Nuyens and de Wit call these performances pre-enactments: the idea is the same as a re-enactment, but instead of putting on a suit and performing a situation from the past, you put on a suit and practice for the future. In every pre-enactment a different perspective will be performed followed by a talk with experts that gives more information and context. In this way Nuyens and De Wit try to engage as many citizens in this lawsuit as possible. The central question to the project is: who is in this climate drama actually responsible for what?

About the artists

Anoek Nuyens and Rebekka de Wit make social-engaged, documentary theatre. The conversation they initiate extends over diverse social domains and platforms: from politics to science, from fact to fiction, from theatre to newspaper and internet. At Frascati Productions they developed the theatre project ‘Unless you have a better plan’ (2017) in which they searched for a way to imagine a world where human beings are no longer the measurement of things. The performance resulted in ‘The Court of Justice’ (2018) where they investigated the possibilities of filing a lawsuit to protect our environment. Here the foundation for the collaboration with Friends of the Earth Netherlands was laid.


On the 30th of November 2018 De Wit and Nuyens launched their first pre-enactment in Amsterdam. The Dutch press wrote a critic about it.


In 2019 and 2020 different pre-enactments will be performed. In 2020 / 2021 it will premiere with a performance where all the pre-enactments come together.