Theatres are environmental offenders—lavish sets, global tours, huge fuel bills and throw-away programmes every night. Not to mention the size of many of the older ones and the amount of fuel needed to heat them. Power demands are huge, not just for the lighting of a show but also from the lobbies, bars, offices and exit signs. Then there are all the sets that get scrapped at the end of a run because many of the pieces cannot be used again or small companies can’t afford to put sets into storage until needed.
In Germany bus transport services are timed to coincide with the end of performances. However in most other places, audiences travel to theatres in private cars, particularly to those in small towns where many come in from the countryside to attend.
But theatres have always minimised waste because historically companies are so cash-strapped. Costumes were used over and over again, and props are painted and recycled constantly. Now, directors are starting to think about recycling in all aspects of the business.
At the National Theatre in London they are printing programmes on recycled paper, filtering the marsh water under the building for use as grey water in the toilets and aiming to reduce power by 20% over the next year. Companies are changing their travelling policies and trying to reduce air tours.
The least environmental play: how about the new Lord of the Rings with 55 hobbits, 500 pieces of armour and 17 elevators to turn 3 stages.
The cleanest: Breath, by Samuel Beckett. It is 35 seconds long and the actor is required only to breathe. :: Guardian