Making Theatre in a Time of Climate Crisis: The Resources

On 29 September 2023, the three National Theatres of the U.K. – Scotland, Wales and England – staged a day-long conversation for and with theatre directors from across the U.K., to mark the National Theatre in London committing to meeting Theatre Green Book ‘baseline’ standards in all its productions from the start of 2024. It was attended, online or in person, by 300 directors and director-adjacent theatre practitioners from across the UK.

The event explored a wide variety of ways to meet this challenge – placing creativity at the heart of responding to the challenges of attending to the context of climate crisis. See here for an outline of the day and here for biographies of the speakers. This page offers a range of resources to guide directors on creative leadership for making environmentally responsible theatre. You will find below videos of all the talks, following the chronology of the day, from introductions and ethos, through ‘challenges’, to ‘models’ and ‘visions.’

Attendees were invited to submit ‘asks’  to facilitate early-stage creative conversation on climate care, between freelance directors and artistic directors , in order to create a document that can be used as a starting point for collaboration on environmental responsibility. These ‘asks’ are published below. At the end of the day the three artistic directors invited all participants to make collective pledges, published below with some pointers for realising these commitments. 

Making Theatre in a Time of Climate Crisis: The Pledges

Making Theatre in a Time of Climate Crisis: The Asks

The event was curated by Zoë Svendsen and Lesley Anne Rose, with support from staff at the three National Theatres, in particular Gema Swallow, Glesni Price-Jones, David Evans and Paul Handley. It was produced by Sunita Hinduja and Manisha Majithia for the National Theatre, London.

‘I thought it would be a lot of talk, but the passion, knowledge and commitment of the various speakers lifted it from a talking shop to a doing shop! It was excellent.’

Attendee at Making Theatre in a Time of Climate Crisis

Artistic directors’ welcome

Jackie Wylie, Artistic Director, National Theatre of Scotland, moving from a state of fear, to a state of longing – imagining a climate-just future.

Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales, on how to think long-term even in the midst of crisis, and remembers Tamasha Artistic Director, Abdul Shayek.

Rufus Norris, Artistic Director, National Theatre England, introduces the invitation to contribute an ‘ask’.

Keynote Panel: It is in Our Hands to Shape the Future

We are living through a time of three competing narratives about the future of theatre and wider world. Some tell the story of striving for ‘business as usual’, others that everything is falling apart and in decline. Through their collective knowledge, experiences and visions, this keynote panel addressed a third version of the story of the future, to explore a narrative of the climate crisis as a wake-up call and turning point towards creating an alternative future: one which is regenerative, creative and fosters justice and care, locally and globally. Chaired by Jackie Wylie.

In the spirit of collaboration, and corrective voices, this panel had 3 keynote speakers. In addition, Amanda Parker acted as keynote listener thoughout the day, and shared her reflections in conversation with Jackie Wylie, Lorne Campbell and Rufus Norris.

Kate Raworth, co-founder of Doughnut Economics Action Lab and author of Doughnut Economics

Amanda Parker, Cultural Policy Consultant and founder of Inc Arts (Amanda will also act as ‘keynote listener’ across the day)

Ben Twist, Director of Creative Carbon Scotland

Full Panel video with Q&A

Theatre Green Book Update

David Evans, Head of Production, National Theatre Wales, Paul Handley, Director of Production and Technical, National Theatre and Gemma Swallow, Technical Director, National Theatre of Scotland will give an overview of the Theatre Green Book, and how it is being used across the theatre industry.

The Challenges

The theatre context for addressing climate crisis is complex: low pay, reduced funding, reduced audiences post-pandemic, high levels of precarity for freelancers, the employment squeeze, and the urgent need to take better care in rehearsal and production practices. These all create pressure on the mental space for engaging with the climate crisis, never mind the capacity for practical action. This session aired the challenges and offered practical and imaginative responses, modelling ways of navigating a path towards a better future, avoiding both false fixes and doomerism. A panel of responders took on challenges, submitted by directors when signing up to attend the day. Chaired by Lorne Campbell.

Responders:

Clare Slater, Artistic Director, HighTide

Suba Das, Freelance director and former Creative Director, Liverpool Everyman

Rachel Bagshaw, Artistic Director, Unicorn Theatre

Jennifer Taillefer, Certified Carbon Literacy Trainer and Production Manager

Matthew Xia, Artistic Director of Actors Touring Company

Liam Sinclair, Executive Director and joint CEO of Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre

Making Theatre in a Time of Climate Crisis: The Challenges

A downloadable document outlining challenges and offering antidotes and workarounds.

Response-ability

On the day, participants in person could select to join a breakout conversation, to engage in more depth with a particular approach to addressing climate crisis

  • An introduction to Carbon Literacy Training with Paul Burgess, Theatre designer and Artist
  • A closer look at how directors can support their teams to use the Theatre Green Book, with David Evans, Gemma Swallow and Paul Handley
  • Understanding Climate Anxiety with Martin Fisher, Climate Anxiety Practitioner and Psychotherapist
  • Equity for a Green New Deal and the Equity Green Rider, with Rachael Bellis, Director and Part of Equity for a Green New Deal and actor/activists Fehinti Balogun and Sam Swann
  • Decolonising Dramaturgy with Beth Kapila and Gitika Buttoo, Dramaturgy Associates of Tamasha Arts.
  • Exploring Climate Dramaturgy with Clare Slater, Artistic Director of Hightide
  • Enabling Climate Care with Abigail Graham, theatre director and SDUK board member
  • Art and Activism introducing Culture Declares Emergency with freelance theatre-maker Kay Michael and Chloe Naldrett, Executive Producer, Birmingham Rep

Breakout sessions PDF

Click here for details of each breakout session, including links to find out more.

Models and Antidotes

This session comprised presentations from practitioners who have different experiences and methods of working with the Theatre Green Book principles, as well as different engagements with the context of the climate in their work. Chaired by Rufus Norris.

Elizabeth Freestone, theatre director, creative consultant and environmentalist, on the entwining of the social and environmental in directing The Tempest (RSC)

Gavin Porter, freelance director and producer on his work with National Theatre Wales and working-class communities

Debbie Hannan, Associate Director at the National Theatre of Scotland, on NTS touring production and Green Book Case Study, Exodus

Max Webster, freelance theatre director, on Macbeth (Donmar Warehouse)

Due to unforeseen circumstances, two panellists were unable to join on the day. You can find out more about their work here:
Katie Mitchell, international freelance theatre director.
Patrick O’Reilly, Artistic Director of Tinderbox, Northern Ireland.

Visions: Imagining Otherwise

In this session we imagined the impossible. Artists and producers co-imagined potential seasons or complete reconstruction that they would like to imagine into being. They shared anticipated challenges and talked about how these different ways of working will enable both creativity and meeting the Theatre Green Book’s standards. Chaired by Natalie Ibu, Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive, Northern Stage.

Chair Natalie Ibu, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Northern Stage, on Justice (introduced by Jackie Wylie).

Vicki Mortimer, set designer and National Theatre Associate, on A Palimpsest Season

Harold Finley, Executive Director of Stage Directors UK, on Leading Creative Change

Sean Foley, Artistic Director, Chloe Naldrett, Executive Producer and Suzy Somerville, Director of Productions, Birmingham Rep, on A National Grid for theatre

Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales, with Jacob Ellis, Lead Change Maker for Public Affairs and International Relations at the Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, on going Local to Global

Round-up of the day

Keynote listener Amanda Parker in conversation with the Artistic Directors, Lorne Campbell (NTW), Rufus Norris (NT) and Jackie Wylie (NTS) as they each reflect on their takeaways from the day, exploring emergent themes, crux points and future possibilities. On the way out, we gathered your suggestions for ‘asks’ between directors and artistic directors, which were collated and edited to create a document aimed at facilitating artistic collaboration on climate care.

Pledges

Asks

Further Resources

These resources were available for reading in the foyer during breaks and/or informed the curation of the event. Further, there’s a wealth of resources on the Green Book website – see here for a plethora of case studies for ways to use Theatre Green Book.

    • Provocation on Dramaturgy
      Some pointers to support exploration of the plethora of ways that climate crisis can be addressed on stage.
    • A Green Glossary
      Guidance on how to use clear and effective language when talking about environmental responsibility.