A View from the Bridge
This case study compares three mid-scale touring co-productions. All three targeted Baseline standard. Two achieved it, almost reaching Intermediate standard.
Press night: 15 June 2022
Tour locations: Old Vic, London – Oldham Coliseum – Worthing – Bath – Cambridge
Cast: (no.) 9
Co-production: Old Vic, Headlong & as above
Jitney had previously been staged at Leeds, but was largely re-made for touring with a new cast but the same creative team. The Old Vic, as lead producer, had good experience of working sustainably. Kat Ellis, an experienced sustainability lead, was deputy production manager at the Old Vic and then took the role of lead production manager for the tour.
Early-stage recommendations for setting standards and collaborative development were mostly not followed, partly because the production was a re-mount whose creative thinking had already been done. However, the budget was established to support sustainability, for example by an additional allowance of roughly £2.5K for disposal of materials after the tour.
The tour destinations could not be altered, but tour accommodation was chosen for sustainability (and cast safety / comfort), and Headlong’s standard riders prioritise train travel.
Props supervisor, scenic makers etc were familiar with sustainable working and fully engaged. The production was assessed using the Theatre Green Book materials inventory.
Baseline (close to Intermediate). Materials reused and recycled: 80% (source), 75% (destination). See note below.
Issues and Lessons
• The creative team would ideally have been more involved, but this was hard to achieve with a show that had already been designed.
• With a co-production, it was a strong benefit to have someone committed and experienced leading the process.
Press night: 24 November 2022
Tour locations: Globe, London (Sam Wanamaker) – Leeds – Worthing – Royal & Derngate, Northampton
Cast: (no.) 10
Co-production: Globe, Headlong & as above
Henry V was a co-production with the Globe, whose candlelit Sam Wanamaker theatre was very different from the touring venues.
The Globe, who produce a large number of shows, have a streamlined and efficient production process, but were (then) relatively new to working sustainably. The creative team of Holly Race Roughan and Moi Tran were both highly committed to working sustainably.
Kat Ellis took the dual role of sustainability consultant and tour manager, providing both continuity and sustainability expertise.
An obvious challenge was the transfer from the Sam Wanamaker, with its fixed baroque stage and wooden benches. Reproducing these would have been problematic environmentally, economically and creatively. Instead, the team created a backdrop and stage floor that could be made sustainably and dropped into each venue, and recreated the Wanamaker’s intimacy with flight cases. That creative move unlocked a sustainable result.
In other respects, the Wanamaker’s restrictions, of small stage and repertory programming which required quick demounting, matched well with a light-weight staging that could be toured sustainably.
On tour, the back wall was supported on demountable steeldeck. The back wall and floor materials were retained by tour venues for future shows.
The production was assessed using the Theatre Green Book materials inventory.
Baseline (close to Intermediate). Materials reused and recycled: 70% (source), 89% (destination). See note below.
Issues and Lessons
• Working sustainably requires processes to change. For larger organisations with relatively fixed processes, this needs recognition and planning.
• Continuity of staff with expertise is a huge benefit. However, it’s important they aren’t seen as solely responsible for driving sustainability, which needs everyone to collaborate.
• Sustainable solutions come through creative thinking that goes back to first principles, and avoids literal answers.
A View from the Bridge
Press night: 18 September 2023
Tour locations: Bolton Octagon – Chichester Festival Theatre – Rose Kingston
Cast: (no.) 8
Co-production: CFT, Headlong & as above
Although critically acclaimed, the production faced significant production challenges.
The production was originally programmed with a different creative team, who then had to step away. The new team was committed to working sustainably, but needed to concentrate on developing a creative vision quickly. Early stages therefore couldn’t follow Green Book guidance.
There was also change in the production team, with four production managers in all (and handovers / gaps at key moments). This badly hindered continuity of planning (for example, a potential clash between requirements for sustainability and health & safety became hard to resolve).
The three venues were very different in scale and format, setting a tough design challenge for the creative team.
Due to the changes of production manager, the production was not regularly assessed during development. Results were only calculated afterwards.
Did not reach baseline. Materials reused and recycled: 32% (source), 49% (destination). See note below.
Issues and Lessons
• The production never fully recovered from the programme pressure created by early change of the creative team. It is very hard to achieve a sustainable outcome with a production under stress.
• Lack of continuity in the team – in particular the frequent changes of production manager – made it far harder to plan the production for a sustainable outcome.
Successful outcomes benefit from:
• Time and planning (it is hard to work sustainably under stress).
• Expertise which can be brought in if needed.
• Creative thinking to unlock solutions that are both creatively exciting and sustainable.
• Collaboration & joined-up thinking between producers, creative teams and makers.
• Flexibility in amending familiar processes to enable sustainable working.
Note: Percentages of reuse and recycling were calculated using the Theatre Green Book materials inventory. This did not allow for comparing items measured by weight and items assessed by number. The above percentages are therefore an approximate amalgam of the two.