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.