Tag Archive | "eco-friendly"

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Feature: Blood Wedding goes green

Posted on 06 November 2013 by Ellen Carr

DSC07341How can theatre fight the green fight? One way is to make an entire set from recycled materials, as designer Francisco Rodriguez-Weil has done for Aria Entertainment and SOT Stage’s Blood Wedding at The Courtyard theatre. When Rodriguez-Weil attended a talk at London’s Young Vic theatre on making eco-friendly work he immediately took up the challenge to make a sustainable set. His design for Blood Wedding was already complete at this stage, but he decided to rip it up and start again driven by his personal interest in climate change and the environment. In Rodriguez-Weil’s words it was “a last minute challenge and I’m much happier with the current design”. I chatted to this brave and inventive designer about the challenges of making a sustainable set and what he sees for the future of eco-friendly theatre.

Rodriguez-Weil is a designer who enjoys immersing himself in different forms, a way of working which requires a certain passion for experimenting and learning from different approaches. This quality must certainly have helped when creating this new set for Blood Wedding. When working on a design, he enjoys collaborating with the director to create a “three-dimensional space from a two-dimensional script”. Bronagh Lagan, the director for this production, allowed him a lot of freedom when it came to the design and this is why he was able to make absolutely everything sustainable. “I went overboard on this project,” Rodriguez-Weil admits, and adds that this amount of commitment to an eco-friendly design probably wouldn’t be possible with every production. Blood Wedding had a set where everything could be adapted, “and I don’t think all directors will be happy to do that”.

Even with eco concerns in mind, the most important thing remains the script and the production itself. Should an eco-friendly way of working, however, be something we give more importance to and that more directors are open to? After all, using recycled components for the set doesn’t seem that far removed from the tight-budget, university productions that are every director’s training ground. Sometimes it does us good to accept a challenge and the best ideas can happen through working under limitations.DSC07371

Rodriguez-Weil certainly wants to continue to explore this way of working, “but I’m not sure how far I’m going to go”. For him the biggest issue for the future of green theatre doesn’t come from the productions. Paint is, he says, an issue, as if the set isn’t painted in eco-friendly paint then none of it can be recycled. If this is tackled, however, all theatrical sets can be recycled through various companies. “The biggest waste comes from the theatre buildings themselves”, Rodriguez-Weil believes and goes on to list such areas as heating, usage, doors being left open – general building based concerns – as the areas where we need to start making the most changes. He does, however, believe that we can “all make a big impact in the end” if everybody starts to “put in their little grain of sand”.

How easy is it, then, to work in an eco-friendly way? Rodriguez-Weil used the floor from an opera he’d done before, sustainable paint, no print “I didn’t make a model, we worked with visuals and computer simulations”. The entire set is made from recycled items and consists of a lot of different doors; in keeping with the text Rodriguez-Weil sees the doors as representing “the hell behind every door” in Lorca’s play. Working with recycled items, though, he feels gives the set a “unique character”. The fact that it “has already had a life, it has its own character” brings an additional element to the production that Rodriguez-Weil particularly likes, and he claims to be extremely proud of this set.

DSC07415Going overboard to create an eco-friendly set does not, however, come without its challenges: “it demands a different mindset” from the way one might work on a more conventional design. One thing Rodriguez-Weil found particularly challenging was “having to adapt already existing items” rather than, for example, ordering the doors to be custom built to the exact dimensions in a workshop. “I did have to work more”, Rodriguez-Weil admits, “but I gained something special that I wouldn’t have gained otherwise and I’m proud of that”.

It certainly seems that, in the age we live in, eco-friendly theatre is something we should be concerned about. Plus, as Rodriguez-Weil has illustrated, it is an enjoyable challenge that can develop our ways of thinking and working for the better. I particularly like the notion of everything on stage having had a previous life; it seems fitting for theatre which is such a living medium. In this era of idolisation of the new there’s something nice about being able to sit back and appreciate things that have already had a life. I wonder how this approach would work for a piece of new writing or a more contemporary production?

Blood Wedding is at The Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton until 16 November. For more information and tickets visit The Courtyard’s website.

Ellen Carr

Ellen Carr

Ellen is Artistic Director of Witness Theatre, a company she established after graduating from the University of Sussex in 2011. Ellen writes, directs and produces for Witness Theatre and spends the rest of her time doing more writing. She is currently writing her own blog witnesstoexperience daily, contributes regular features to One Stop Arts and can also be found writing the occasional screenplay.

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Guest blog: Sustainability on stage

Posted on 30 October 2013 by A Younger Theatre

Anna Dunne 3

Studying at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) for a BA in Theatre and Performance Design has encouraged me to think even more about the benefits of acting sustainably when putting on a production, both in order to keep the costs down and more importantly to help curb the wastage of unwanted clothes.

With the recent government arts cuts, the arts industries, and specifically those working in the performing arts, have to think up new strategies to be more budget-savvy. These cuts not only affect the actors, dancers and singers who appear at the forefront of a production, but also have a knock-on effect on all the people working behind the scenes to keep the cogs turning.

Whilst studying at LIPA, one module which was particularly instrumental in teaching me the benefit of operating sustainably was one on design construction/deconstruction. The module was split into two halves: the construction side taught students how to source period dress from modern-day cheaper materials without compromising appearance, and the deconstruction side of the module taught students how modern-day garments are constructed and how they can be taken apart and altered for refitting. In these turbulent time,s the ability to give a new lease of life to some old worn out jeans or a jacket is a valuable skill. With a bit of practice, clothes we feel are worthy of a place only on the rubbish dump can be transformed into beautiful, bespoke, couture pieces.

For me, the dual challenge of sourcing sustainably and keeping costs down actually gets my creative juices flowing even more. It has taught me to look at old garments in a totally new light and often the final results are even more rewarding. With an emphasis on the historical, the module at LIPA showed that periods of recession in Britain actually act as a launch pad for great creativity across the nation. Designers who flourished during the hard times of the 70s and 80s, such as Vivienne Westwood, still have a strong influence on theatre and performance design today. Prolific designers, such as Westwood and the late Alexander McQueen, have helped to inspire costume designers and in turn have contributed to the success of British theatre, which is revered the world over.

We were taught to look beyond our initial research of a particular period and to draw on other creative references to create costumes that boast a stamp of our own individuality. After all, theatre is an expressive art form to be embraced and not repeatedly replicated. With these transferable skills, I and a fellow student from LIPA were able to put this recycling technique, known as up-cycling, into practice, when we designed and created the costumes for a musical entitled 1,000 Suns. The set was sourced entirely from rescued items and the costumes were donated to us following a call out for clothing via a social media campaign. In the end, we received 14 bags of clothing which were renewed to make a total of 24 costumes.

Our commitment to sustainability paid off as the performance was shortlisted by The Edinburgh Festival Sustainable Practice Committee as being one of the top 20 most ecologically friendly productions at the festival. This recognition has helped to spur us on even further to create more sustainable productions in the future. After the success of the Edinburgh leg of the production, I am now busily working with the cast of 1,000 Suns on our next production, which is due to take be staged in Liverpool in 2014.

Anna Dunn is a Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts graduate. She is now in the process of setting up her own business in digital printing fabrics and is currently working  at The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. This summer Anna and a fellow LIPA student produced the costumes and set made entirely from recycled material for a play which debuted at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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Theatre on the fly popping up in Chichester

Posted on 29 June 2012 by Eleanor Turney

Kim Pearce, 26, is Trainee Director (Regional Young Directors’ Scheme) at Chichester Festival Theatre. She is also Associate Director of Chichester’s Theatre On The Fly, a new pop-up, community-based theatre, which aims to engage the young people of Chichester. She tells AYT’s Eleanor Turney about her career to date, and her plans for the future…

Tell me a bit about yourself. What have you been up to since graduating from Warwick?

After graduating from a very experimental and lab-based Theatre and Performance course, I spent a brilliant year finding my feet by making various shows and assisting on site-responsive work . It was an interesting time around Warwick – exciting young companies such as Curious Directive were coming together (they voted for their name in my house, I’ve got the piece of paper somewhere!). I then took the Birkbeck Theatre Directing MFA, and straight after that won a Regional Young Directors’ Scheme residency at Chichester Festival Theatre.

What’s been the highpoint of your career so far?

Just now, Theatre On The Fly is occupying all my mind and so I’m going to call that the high point, although I’ve assisted on some really special shows. Having been a part of work like that will always be important to me – anyone who saw Con O’Neill’s astonishing performance as Eddie in A View From The Bridge at the Manchester Royal Exchange will know what I mean.

What advice would you give to other young directors starting out?

Craft/Art – don’t neglect either. Never stop reading, even when you get frantically busy with the delivery of a project. If you make sure you keep reading things which aren’t about the project when you can, then six months later when you emerge, you are less likely to be running on empty.

The Birkbeck MFA taught me that you will learn from your peers as much as you will from mentors. Develop a group of other young directors that trust you and can talk to you about your experiences. The great thing is that if they help you, you can help them in return – it’s a basic exchange that seems to keep the profession alive.

Lastly, I’ve been told by someone who has seen a lot of young directors come and go that very few of us know how to behave in an office – lack of etiquette. So those office temp jobs do pay off.

Tell me about the opportunities that Chichester has offered you.

I just stood outside and got a bit emotional as I listened to applause from the first audience enjoying a show in a theatre I’ve had a hand in creating – that’s an opportunity to cherish! The training Chichester offers is primarily about artistic direction, and being involved in the life cycle of a pop-up regional producing venue has been a remarkable experience. I’ve made suggestions and seen them come into effect on a large scale. I’ve been allowed to take risks, for example commissioning an audio play entitled Here. It will be running as part of the Theatre On The Fly season. It’s about the iconic architecture of the Festival Theatre, and allows people to explore the structures on site from a new perspective. Explaining the kind of show where the audience walk around wearing headphones to a regular CFT theatregoer is like talking a foreign language. However, once you get past that initial barrier, they are up for anything – it’s a characteristic that got the Festival Theatre built by public subscription in the first place.

I’ve had also some incredible assists – Jonathan Kent on Sweeney Todd, Rachel Kavanaugh on The Way of the World, and I was associate to the legendary Dale Rooks on her huge Youth Theatre production of The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe.

I’ve had the chance to be one of their young Turks – along with the Co-Artistic Directors Anna Ledwich, Michael Oakley and Tim Hoare and our Associate Producer, Holly Reiss. We get to stand on our temporary, site-responsive theatre and lure audiences from the interval of Trevor Nunn’s Kiss Me, Kate over to have a look. It’s fun to be the young pretenders on the fringe. Of course, in actual fact the support from everyone across the CFT organisation and the season’s productions has been overwhelming – from the inception of the project to appearing in our Sunday play readings to Trevor giving us a shout out on the radio.

And tell me about the pop-up theatre – how does it work? What do you hope it will achieve?

It’s exciting because Theatre on the Fly is something which very rarely happens. Back in the ’80s, Chichester had a brilliant and spontaneous Tent Theatre, where young talents such as Sam Mendes (who was 25) got a first break. The days of institutions trusting such promising young directors seem long past, but Jonathan Church has allowed us learn our craft as mini artistic directors, who not only have to run our own building but had to build it in the first place! And the promotion of emerging young talent goes right through the project – the stage, light and sound designers all represent a new generation of practitioners.

It’s no less exciting as a feat of engineering – our architects are Assemble, an award-winning young design-and-build collective responsible for the amazing temporary arts spaces The Cineroleum and Folly for a Flyover. Its ethos is unique, equally committed to breath-taking design, community participation and recyclable materials. It has created a temporary theatre which can do far more than a permanent one – it can open itself to the surrounding park or enclose you in new worlds, and it boasts an exposed fly tower revealing the beautiful motion of hemp ropes and counterweights. The volunteer input has been extraordinary; the amazing thing about CFT has always been the community buy-in, but this has been exceptional. We’ve had at least 50 people, some young, some retired, families, loyal theatre-goers and people who’ve never heard of us, all learning some simple skills and making a theatre rise out of nothing. And it’s been a joy to see bits of old theatres – whether it’s old seats from Oldham or sets from London – get reinvented to build our own.

Of course, that’s all before you even look at what’s going to happen inside! The three main plays represent Chichester debuts for three really exciting young directors, who have very different tastes. First up is Blue Remembered Hills, which has just started previewing. It’s about a group of children in the West Country during WW2, and Anna Ledwich has directed it to use the new space in such an inventive and immersive way that you can’t help thinking we built the theatre for the show! Playhouse Creatures, directed by Michael Oakley, is set to turn the space into something very different – a more enclosed, bawdy Restoration space, and we’ll transform again when we premiere Penelope Skinner’s new play Fred’s Diner, directed by Tim Hoare. Excitingly, all three are choices which would not usually be programmed in permanent theatres, and each is aimed at introducing a slightly younger audience to CFT.

So what’s next for the young people of Chichester?

Taking ownership of this space, whether that is through performing in it, having work read in it, dancing at the silent disco in the auditorium or coming to our productions and events. Whilst we hope that Theatre On The Fly is something the regular CFT audiences feel they can embrace, we have our eyes set on this being a theatre that a younger audience feel they own.

And what’s next for you?

Directing! I’ve got a while yet to go at Chichester, but a Theatre On The Fly-scale project is quite a straightforward operation once you get it figured. It’s a pattern you can take anywhere, and adapt to fit the mood and character of the place you are. My beloved(ly troubled) home town Luton is undergoing regeneration and I’ve always wanted to revive the fortunes of the cavernous art deco cinema in the centre of town…

Blue Remembered Hills, Playhouse Creatures and Fred’s Diner will be at Theatre on the Fly, Evenings 8pm, Matinees 3pm until 2 September. Tickets £17, with concessions and day seats available. To book online, go to or contact the Box Office on 01243 781312.

Image credit: Chichester Festival Theatre’s Theatre on the Fly

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney is the Managing Editor of A Younger Theatre, as well as a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She has written for The Guardian, The Stage, The FT and Ideas Tap, and worked for the Poetry Society and the British Council.

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