The Greenhouse is a pop-up theatre, located under Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags in the grounds of Our Dynamic Earth. Made entirely from found and recycled materials, it resembles nothing so much as an attractively ramshackle allotment shed – but it represents a whole lot more.
The brainchild of BoxedIn Theatre and supported by The Pleasance, The Greenhouse is an immersive performance space, with capacity for thirty audience members. There is no mains electricity, so no lighting rig, no built-in sound system. The perspex roof means we can see the ever-changing sky; the thin walls mean we’re not insulated from the tourist coaches that thunder up the road outside. This is the opposite of a black box, isolated from reality; here, audiences have to confront the environmental context of what we see; we can’t pretend the real world isn’t there. This is zero-waste theatre – a young, forward-thinking company walking the walk and showing that it really can be done.
We’re fascinated, of course. Theatre and waste-reduction? Two of our favourite things! And the Fringe is scarily wasteful, so it’s good to see that someone is paving the way, creating a new model for how things can be done. Plastic food-and-drink containers aren’t really an issue here as there is no bar or café, but the Fringe generates a lot of paper waste as well, and BoxedIn Theatre want no part of that.
Yesterday, we met up with Oli Savage (artistic director) and Grace Thorner (head of marketing), and were mightily impressed by their clarity of vision, and by their capacity to realise their objectives. Innovators like these give us hope for the future: they show we don’t have to accept things as they are, and really can (fridge magnet alert) be the change we want to see. They were insistent: we can’t ignore what’s happening and, if theatre wants to be truly relevant, it has to respond to the environmental crisis.
With seven shows each day, The Greenhouse presents a wide range of plays, all with an eco-theme. But how do they advertise the shows without flyers or posters? Obviously, they’re using social media, but they’ve also invested in some second-hand tablets, and are engaging with people in the street, showing them on-screen images, and collecting emails so that further information can be sent. Oli explained why this is better than traditional flyering: not only is there no paper waste, but neither can people just take a piece of paper, shove it in their pocket and walk on. If they’re interested enough to stop, then there’s a real opportunity to capture their attention.
Paper tickets are another potential problem, and one they haven’t yet completely resolved. They’re accepting email confirmation in lieu of printed tickets, but – as part of the Fringe programme – can’t help but be included in some aspects of the general process. They’re working on it, chipping away, meeting with all the bigwigs and making their case.
We’re seeing a play there tomorrow, and will report back on the experience.
But keep an eye on this young company. They’re the future. Happening now.
We saw Shellshock! yesterday, and here is our review: