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The Greenhouse Guide to Pride

As Pride 2021 rolls around, we knew we had to celebrate. In 2020, a pandemic halted everyone’s pride. We still celebrated, reflected, learnt, commemorated and educated, but we were separated. You’ve heard it time and time again by now – ‘together but separate’. However, as we see restrictions lifting and life returning (dare I say it) back to normal, together really can mean together. Theatre is an incredibly raw medium with the potential to face current issues head-on. Historically, theatre and performance have challenged the status quo and taken risks that many other forms of entertainment daren’t. It is for these reasons that during June, and every month, we should be actively engaging with queer artists.

Theatre is activism. Emphasis on the ‘act’. Inciting change is a theatre-maker’s bread and butter. The Greenhouse produces environmental theatre that fosters genuine human connections to encourage more sustainable choices and lifestyles. ⅔ of our executive team identify as LGBTQ, so the art we create isn’t just ecoconscious, it’s also queer. While we are known to gender-bend our plays, and continually subvert hetero-normative expectations of sexuality and relationships in our plays, this is not the main focus of our work right now. However, there are lots of incredible companies actively engaging and working with a diverse range of people from the LGBTQIA+ community. There are many theatres, mainly in London, that have made moves to popularise work by LGBTQIA+ individuals. The Apollo debuted Everybody’s Talking About Jamie in 2017 with much success. In that same year, The National ran its Queer Theatre season to mark 50 years since the beginning of decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales. These types of performances have worked wonders to increase the visibility of minorities and diversify an industry with a historic tradition of centring white, heterosexual, cis-men. 

And yet, it’s not nearly enough. In a 2019-20 report by Arts Council England, they recognise that only ‘a small number’ of people that work for organisations they fund are LGBT+. Additionally, The National has a whole page on their website dedicated to diversity in their organisation. They list impressive statistics of what they’ve achieved or will achieve for women and people of colour, while there is no information regarding their LGBTQIA+ community. There is a popular misconception that the arts is dominated by overtly camp queer individuals. While the arts community remains more liberal and welcoming than most, there are still huge barriers for minorities. A Stonewall 2018 report stated that “more than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination”. As in any industry, it is the palatable and marketable that take centre stage.  

One of the best ways to support queer artists is to view, fund and interact with their work. One place where queer voices have always been able to flourish is off of the main stages, at independent fringe venues. This Pride month, we at Greenhouse have collated a list of our favourite companies and shows to keep an eye out for and support. 

Mae Martin is a name I’m sure we’ve all heard at this point with the roaring success of the Netflix comedy Feel Good. Mae tackles topics of queer love, addiction and gender dysphoria in the rawest way. Mae is touring the UK this winter with a comedy lineup. 

Lauryn Redding is an incredibly talented actor, writer and composer based in the North. As a proud lesbian, her latest gig musical Bloody Elle centres on a heart-warming first love story. Bloody Elle is showing right now at the Royal Exchange in Manchester until 17th July 2021. 

Scottee & Friends is a theatre company headed by the artistic director Scottee. It is a self-proclaimed “bunch of fat, queer, common femmes and fags” creating activism through a range of performance genres. Find them on Instagram to keep an eye out for the projects they have in the works right now!

Slacker Girls (Tanika Maya Lay and Scarlett Wood) is a new theatre company that debuted their first show this year despite the COVID-shaped obstacles! Bathwater was a show that centred stories of lesbianism, heteronormativity and queer coding. As part of the Vault Festival 2021 these legends enjoyed an incredibly successful run. Follow @sweet.taniks over on Instagram to see what’s next. 

Hotel Elsewhere are a group of LGBTQIA+ artists who create immersive performances. One of their signature shows called Memory Cafe worked with using scents to evoke memory. Additionally, they have a podcast called Through the Attic Door available on Spotify, Youtube, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.


Above The Stag is an independent venue in London supporting the LGBT+ community. It has currently programmed two shows by queer artists such as Tommy on Top and Contact: Stories of Divison and Unity. Above The Stag creates a safe space for the queer community to share their art and tell their stories through the form of theatre, cabaret, comedy, and much more.

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The Greenhouse 2021 – Artistic Direction

It doesn’t need to be said again, but 2020 has been a whirlwind of a year. Bushfires, COVID, the US elections, and any number of other crises peppered in between. In contrast, 2020 seems to have been a positive year for the natural world. Wildlife returned and reclaimed places from which it had been forced out. There is a growing environmental consciousness amongst populations who have been turning to green spaces in these tumultuous times.

I say it seems to have been a positive year because we must see the wood for the trees. COVID has been an undeniable tragedy with a massive human cost. A cost that will only grow as innocents continue to be sacrificed at the altar of the economy. This is a fact that cannot, nor should not be avoided.

If 2020 was a time of tragedy, however, we must make 2021 a time of hope. Hope of overcoming this terrible disease, but hope beyond that too. As the gears of the capitalist machine have repeatedly ground to a halt over the last twelve months, we have caught a glimpse of the world beyond. A world where we don’t have to spend four hours a day on buses and trains just to get to work. A world where we have time for the things and the people we truly care about. A world where community and compassion come first.

Rest assured, friends, the sudden re-appearance of care and love and hope was not a symptom of the virus. They are flowers that began to bud as we paused just briefly, giving ourselves a moment outside our seemingly endless cycle of growth. Imagine how they might flourish at any other time. Not surrounded by catastrophe, but rather when we decide to step aside, and let the sun come streaming in.

We have seen that the cycle is not endless – we have seen what happens when it ends. Far from falling in to catastrophe, we have lifted each other up. It is possible to live in a kinder, fairer world. Has it taken tradegdy for us to realise it? Maybe. But it is now staring at us in the face. And we must not let this past year be in vain. It can mean something. It can propel us to a better future for everyone. A future where it doesn’t take a nation-wide lockdown for us to start saying ‘hello’ to our neighbours.

In setting our Artistic Direction for 2021, we aim to embody all this. We stand fast beside our roots in climate conscious theatre, and we add the knowledge that, compared to this time last year, everyone is viewing the world a little differently. There is potential for fear. There is potential to return to ‘life as normal.’ But there is also potential for a brighter future – a more connected, more active, more hopeful future. A future The Greenhouse will fight for. One performance at a time.

Hopeful

This is not ‘happy-clappy-woodland-creatures-life-is-but-a-fairy-tale’ kind of hopeful. We’re not just looking for happy endings. The world can be bleak – the world has been bleak recently. But if we didn’t genuinely believe things could be better, there wouldn’t be much reason to get out of bed in the morning. In 2021, our programme will make our audience hopeful. It will help them realise the power they hold, and the role they can play in bringing about the future they want to see.

Underpinning everything we create and display is the idea that things can be different.

Active

Our work should not just sit back and wait for audiences to engage. There’s already been enough waiting around this year. In 2021, work at The Greenhouse will seek new ways to connect with our audience. It will engage them in conversation and debate on topics they care about. Ultimately, it will inspire them, while giving them tools and knowledge to take action. So they don’t just feel they want to build a better future – they can start taking steps to make that future a reality.

Work at The Greenhouse will make active partners out of passive spectators.

Connected

Let’s face it, we’ve all been missing social interaction over the last year. And whilst we can’t put that right with just one show, we certainly can try. In 2021, our work will feel particularly immediate, intimate, and human. It will build meaningful connections between audiences and performers that will last well after a show has ended. The theatre itself – and the work presented within it – will become a highly social space, and absolutely everyone will feel a sense of belonging there.

Visiting The Greenhouse will always bring a sense of togetherness and belonging.

Announcements

The Greenhouse 2020 – Cancellation

Just two months ago, it seemed impossible that The Greenhouse would not be opening its doors for 2020. After a smash-hit success with our pilot in 2019, we have been working around the clock to create a project that was more ambitious, more exciting, and sparked more sustainable action.

However, a lot has changed over the last two months – many things far greater than our humble eco-theatre. So, it is with a heavy heart that we must announce the cancellation of our 2020 season. Although our venue is small, we believe that this is the best decision not just for public health, but to show support and solidarity for those whose lives have come to a halt as a result of this crisis, for any reason.

In this dark and challenging time, we extend our hearts and our thanks to everyone who is keeping the world running – from medical professionals to supermarket workers. We also extend our gratitude to artists, past and present, who are playing no small role in keeping us entertained during our time in isolation. We recognise there is not a single person who is experiencing this time without hardship. It’s crucial to remember the role that each and everyone one of us is currently playing, and the daily tragedies we may all experience.

Whilst this crisis has certainly put a financial burden on us and many others in the arts – largely due to the government’s mishandling of public-space closures – there are certainly many who are suffering even more. Coronavirus is disproportionately affecting people in low-income brackets, and members of ethnic minority communities. If you are in a position where you can donate some money, these are the places where it would make the most difference. Consider Turn2Us, a national charity fighting poverty. Or alternatively, consider giving some food to your local food bank.

Yet despite this, we are trying to take some positives from this time in isolation, and we want to help you do the same. We have recently launched a YouTube series called Staying Green in Quarantine, designed to help you build sustainable habits both for now and for the future. You can expect to see videos twice a week, as well as photos and blog posts to help you develop your sustainable skillset while having fun. Whether you want to be more sustainable, or you’re just looking for valuable things to do with your time at home, we’d love for you to check it out.

We will endeavour to bring you the same season in 2021 as we were originally planning to this year, and we hope to present some work this autumn as well – keep your eyes on the website and our social media channels for updates. Who knows what the future holds at the moment? But whatever happens, we remain dedicated to building a brighter, fairer, more sustainable future.

In the meantime, we wish you and everyone you love all the best in these trying times. We are seeing a tragedy unfold before us. We hope, with this imposed pause on everyone’s daily routine, that it is a chance to stop and reflect on the world as it currently is, and consider what we can all do to make it a little better. The cost is far too great, but we must at least make some good from this.

Stay safe,

The Greenhouse Team

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Staying Green in Quarantine

Physician George Price, during the height of the global Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1919, noted that the illness came to communities in the guise of both “destroyer and teacher.” Perhaps quaint to our modern ears and eyes – as glued to screens and phones and buffeted by the deluge of modern life as they are now – the Spanish flu was the first pandemic to rise in the age of “mass society.” Even back then, people the world over were grappling with the fact that the one tried and true method to prevent a widespread pandemic was antithetical to their growing conception of modern life.

When speaking to my friends and family during this time, one feeling they constantly bring up is how they feel bad for missing and even mourning their life pre-quarantine; the trips they had to cancel, the friends they would’ve met, the celebrations now held in living rooms rather than banquet halls. But why not mourn the loss of what makes life worth living? Modern life, or “mass society,” has brought with it not only great risks but also unheard-of treasures. The ability to hop on a plane and visit your loved ones half the world away, or see the same show, or concert, or movie as dozens or hundreds of strangers is not only a wonder of modernity but directly elevates the human condition, inspiring greater advancements and developments than ever before.

The Greenhouse Theatre Workshop, 2019

It all has become so integral to our lives, in fact, that we had almost begun to take it for granted. The growing interconnectivity of our world – through technology, through the arts, through education – is not inevitable. It is fragile and vulnerable to threats outside our control – whether by pandemic or climate change. But while the wheels of society might be stopped, the force which drives them is not. Humanity craves connection and will fight for it in any way possible. There is no doubt that this is a tragedy the likes of which many of us have never seen in our lifetimes. But what will define us for the future is how we adapt – whether or not we are able to use this pause to reflect on what makes our world unjust and unsustainable by fully focusing on what we value and what we’re willing to do to keep it. This “destroyer and teacher,” as it were, is not limited to just public health guidelines. It has taught us that cooperation on threats to our society is not only possible but holds boundless opportunities.

The creativity with which the world has tackled the quarantine is not unique to this crisis. The next fight of our lifetime – climate change – is around the corner. Flights might be stopped, food might be scarce, gatherings might be stifled. What we do now to retool our society to be robust against these disruptions is crucial, yes, but it doesn’t have to be painful. “The enemy of art,” as Orson Welles said, “is the absence of limitations.” Faced with the limitations of our lifetimes, it is up to us to rise to the occasion. When everything has cleared and our lives have returned to normal, don’t be too surprised to see that what was “normal” might have changed. COVID-19 has forced us all to not only change how we live our lives but forced us to reconsider how those lives should be lived. I, for one, am excited to see what that brings.

The Greenhouse team is struggling – as countless others across the world are – with the losses, limitations, and fears brought by COVID-19. As many of you may have heard, the Edinburgh Fringe is officially cancelled, and we’ve had to re-shape our plans for London. As it stands, the current plan is to appear with a reduced run in London, from the 10th August to the 6th of September. This is heartbreaking news for all of us at The Greenhouse, although we recognize that there are many on whom this situation is much harder.

What we once thought was not only possible, but inevitable, might be more difficult than we once thought… but not impossible. No matter how dire things get, the reasons why we started this project and our desire to bring it to the world will not have changed and we hope that whatever it is that gets you out of bed in the morning will not have either. That is why we are starting a new initiative – “Staying Green in the Quarantine.” Tips, tricks, videos, and stories from us to you about how we are making quarantined life work for both us and the environment. The opportunities that are present to move forward, rather than falling back on old habits/consumption, are almost endless. So, if you are bored, stressed, at your wit’s end, or are just looking for another friendly face, join us and hopefully leave the world a better place once we all can rejoin it.

Staying Green in the Quarantine is a series of videos, blogs, and articles produced by The Greenhouse team to involve the environment, the arts, and the theatrical community during the quarantine. Check it out on Youtube at The Greenhouse Theatre, on our social media, and online at www.thegreenhousetheatre.com

See you soon!

Ben, Head of Marketing

Theatre & Environment

What Is Theatre’s Role In The Climate Emergency?

Our planet is in danger and it has been for a while. We’ve seen protest and movements from the majority of industries up and down the country. Climate change has stopped being a debate and started to become a fact of life, and a fact we need to change. There are many things an individual can do: Use bamboo toothbrushes, go vegan/vegetarian or avoid those pesky single-use plastics. But sometimes, it can be quite overwhelming and even feel like you’re not doing “enough”. A way to avoid this feeling is to start doing things in a collective, and one of those collectives is theatre. Finding ways to take your passion and your career to a place where you’re sustainably comfortable may seem like the impossible dream, but it actually is easier than you think.

Environmental Protection, Nature Conservation, Ecology

Theatre is a way we tell stories and share our passions, writing theatre about the environment is a simple way that theatre has been tackling the climate emergency. Look to Lungs by Duncan McMillan or The Children by Lucy Kirkwood. Both plays tackle our ecological footprint on this world and how it’s going to affect our future generations. From a performance perspective, just sharing stories like these will affect how people look towards themselves critically. It’s important to recognize that not every audience member is coming to a show to change their views on the environment. However, through performance, we can mix ideologies and show views taken from multiple perspectives. No audience member will walk away with nothing after watching a show, something will stay with them. It is our job as theatre practitioners to give an audience that, we can provide them with information about the climate emergency to influence their mentalities on the subject.

We can also use theatre as a form of protest. Look at the incredible actions of BP or Not BP! As they travel the country protesting different events, the work they do is performative by its very nature. They recently went to the British Museum to protest it’s funding from BP oil company. They demanded that the oil company’s money towards the museum ended due to their destructive environmental practices. Their efforts have been recognized by tabloids all over the UK. It is wonderful to see how their performances have stuck with people.

Finally, making an effort to change how we make theatre is possibly one of the most important roles that we play in this climate emergency. The Greenhouse started its project in order to create a completely zero-waste theatre company. We’ve shown that it is possible to achieve sustainability at a festival like the Fringe. Flyering at the fringe has been a tradition at the fringe, but doesn’t seem to be effective. More importantly, it’s using so much paper that’s just going to total waste. Greenhouses ideology towards this was to find a way to get rid of the “Fringe Flyer”! Travelling around last year they collected and properly recycled as many flyers as possible. As well as this, they swapped to a digital marketing strategy. By allowing people on the mile to talk to the Greenhouse team and sign up to an email mailing list for more information on the shows. If you’re taking a show to the fringe this year, we’re going to be launching a programme to help artists integrate sustainability into their work. Get in touch to learn more!

The Greenhouse Theatre, 2019

In a future blog post, we plan to talk more in-depth about how you specifically can take your own theatre company and make it more environmentally friendly. Overall, to consider theatre as something that doesn’t have a role in the climate emergency is unrealistic and dangerous. We need to consider how everything has a role in the safety of our planet and what we can do to improve upon ourselves. 

Thank you so much for reading and keep an eye out for more Greenhouse news soon!

Bryn Richards,
Deputy Head Of Marketing.