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Making Sustainable Theatre In A Climate Crisis

27 March 2024

Nottingham Playhouse aims to achieve Net Carbon Zero by 2032 and is dedicated to being a leader in environmental responsibility and contributing to a greener future for our community. The Theatre Green Book is one tool that is helping us to achieve this. This World Theatre Day, we chat with Production Manager Jill Robertshaw about how this impacts the way we make theatre.

Can you tell us what exactly the Theatre Green Book is?

The Theatre Green Book has been created as a guide by sustainability experts for all theatres. As we are living in a climate crisis, it is important that we look at how we can make changes as an organisation to reduce our carbon impact. It looks at everything we do, both on and off stage.

As a Production Manager, I look after what happens on stage – the set, lighting, costumes and props. Theatre Green Book contains a lot of guidance and information that helps us to make all of this happen in a more sustainable way. There are three different levels to work towards:

1. Baseline Level – 50% of materials used are recycled or reused and 65% of materials have a further life.
2. Intermediate Level – 75% of materials used are recycled or reused and 80% of materials have a further life.
3. Advanced Level – 100% of materials are recycled or reused and 100% of materials have a further life.

For The Children, we are working towards a baseline level which is the first time we have done this on the auditorium stage, although we have achieved this for our Neville Studio children’s Christmas show for the past few years.

What are the biggest changes when making a show that is Theatre Green Book compliant?

You have to think a lot more about where things are coming from and it makes the whole design process much more collaborative. Historically, the designer would present their model and our talented scenic team would build it exactly as the designer sees it. When we are ensuring that all materials are reused or recycled, we are building less from scratch and looking at how we can source things second-hand that we can alter and reuse.

For example, for The Children, Amy Jane Cook (Set and Costume Designer) has built a door into the set design. Previously, we would have purchased a door that looked identical to the one in Amy’s design. When working towards being Theatre Green Book compliant, we look at how we could source these without buying anything new. In this instance, we took to eBay and settled on a second-hand door that was a bargain at 99p. The flexibility in Amy’s design makes this easy to achieve and the saving in cost is also helpful with funding cuts and the price of materials increasing consistently.

Becoming Theatre Green Book compliant must require a lot of creativity and resourcefulness. How has this impacted The Children set?

People who work on a smaller scale and with smaller budgets have been creating sustainable shows and being resourceful for years out of necessity – borrowing set and props from other venues and theatre companies and looking at cost-effective options, which are often also the most sustainable ones. The kitchen that is on stage is a 1970s kitchen from a house in Burton on Trent which would have most likely ended up in a skip. Our team carefully extracted the kitchen from the house and it has been in rehearsals for the last month with the cast and now is up on the stage. Afterwards, we will be keeping the kitchen with the intention of using it again in the future.

How do we decide which shows will be Green Book compliant?

It comes down to where the show is located and how achievable it would be to recycle and reuse materials to create the set and costume design. For The Children, the setting is quite naturalistic so we can source a lot of pre-owned materials. If the show was set on a spaceship, this would make it much more challenging!

As this is our first Green Book compliant show on the auditorium stage, we are hoping that as our team learn to work in this new way, we’ll be able to take on bigger challenges and more unrealistic settings. We are already starting to apply these principles to all shows including pantomime and some of the set from last year is being re-painted and reused for Jack and the Beanstalk later this year without compromising on the final product.

To find out more about The Theatre Green Book head to and find out what else we are doing to reach our sustainability goals on our Environmental webpage.

Book to see The Children at Nottingham Playhouse until Sat 6 April. 

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