Embracing sustainable theatre practices at Bedales

By Joanne Greenwood, Theatre Manager and Production Designer

Here at Bedales we have always embraced the circular economy when it comes to productions. Reuse. Remake. Recycle. As with many theatres, we have a wardrobe which houses an extensive collection of clothing and accessories, and a prop store built up over the past 25 years.

With the global trend towards sustainably lockdown saw the creation of the Theatre Green Book. The Theatre Green Book gives theatre a path towards sustainability. It maps the journey towards a way of theatre-making that is low carbon and low waste, values people, and contributes to a more sustainable society.

The design brief we set ourselves for the Whole School Show 2021 was to honour 25 years of Bedales Olivier Theatre and to take part in the Theatre Green Book initiative in creating sustainable productions.

When designing any show, I consider what we have available to see what can be reused or adapted. Where possible, purchases are made on the basis that items have a future life and are considered an investment.

Many costumes in the wardrobe are used time and again, especially period costumes, but for a production to have an original and cohesive design there will always be adaptions and new costumes to be made. For Tales from Ovid (2021) we selected costumes from previous productions which hadn’t been used again and reinterpreted them in a new way to reflect the various tales.

The school pinafores from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (2007) formed the basis of the design for the Echo and Narcissus tale with collars made from remnants of fabric we had in stock. The Tereus and Philomela chorus wore jackets from Spring Awakening (2017), skirts from Les Misérables (2004) and boots from Me (2017). The male chorus jackets from Oedipus (2008) were used for the Midas tale with the hi top trainers from Around the World in 80 Days (2019).

The costumes in Jane Eyre (2006) were historically accurate in shape but the design concept was that all the costumes were various shades of red and therefore not realistic to how they would have been worn in the period. Worn by the Bacchic chorus in Bacchus and Pentheus with bare feet, ivy headdresses and doe eye make-up they paid tribute to the Sixth Form production of the Bacchae (1998).

The production also gave us the opportunity to use some memorable character costumes from the past:

  • Juno; Dress originally designed for Medea in Medea (2016)
  • Jupiter; Suit worn by The Prince in Sound of the Night Feather (2015)
  • Procne; Dress worn by Jocasta in Oedipus (2008), originally designed for Gertrude in Hamlet (2003)

Over 95% of the costumes from Tales from Ovid came from our wardrobe stock.

“Everyone in theatre starts their career by creatively stretching resource as far as possible. All theatre-makers are experts in sustainability. To the challenge of responding to the climate emergency, theatre is already bringing resourcefulness, dynamism and creativity.” – Theatre Green Book

Bedales student stars in Petersfield Youth Theatre production

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By Phil Tattersall-King, Deputy Head (Co-curricular)

The connection between Petersfield Youth Theatre (PYT) and Bedales remains as strong as it always has been. Not only does Bedales help with provision of rehearsal space, there are always Bedales students and staff involved in the productions in some way.

In this year’s glorious production of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Block 4 student Rowena le Poer Trench took on the role of Susan, one of the four children who stumble through the fur coats into a different world where animals talk and time works differently. Rowena carefully showed her character’s increasing awareness and wisdom as the plot developed, always being genuine and utterly engaged in the fiction.

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Whole school production concludes Autumn term

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By Blossom Gottlieb, Old Bedalian 2019

Perhaps it is the emotive true story of Mexican nun Juana de la Cruz that created the atmosphere of concentration in the Theatre during The Heresy of Love’s three-night run in December, athough I am inclined to give credit to the incredible cast and crew for really bringing this script to life. Smooth, practically choreographed transitions of the set whisked the audience from scene to scene, helped by the fabulous ensemble and their melodic singing. A gate was lowered from the ceiling to immediately capture the convent. This minimal use of set had maximum versatility, and therefore impact.

Notable performances from Kit Mayhook-Walker as Father Antonio and Oscar Clark as the archbishop at the start pulled the audience into the play ‘in medias res’ and remained strong, whilst Will Needs owned the stage with his excellently articulated monologues as Santa Cruz. Other beautiful examples of characterisation include Sienna Mills-Jung and Amber Pearson, who took on the roles of Sebastiana and Marguerita respectively, with Gus McQuillin as Viceroy and Bel de Gier giving a heart-warming performance as Vicereine.

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