Green Myths Unplugged: Our Technical and Production Director Ria Tubman on sustainability and our latest Unicorn Online projectlatest News 3 Nov 2022
What was the biggest challenge Greek Myths Unplugged presented in terms of sustainability?
Time. The less time you have, the harder it is to be sustainable. A lot of elements on the project came together quite last minute. For example, take the kitchen: it's really hard to find all of those items second-hand: you've got to find the items, and then contact people and organise a pick-up date, and so on. The fridge was second-hand, and that's going on to another life, but I had to end up buying the kitchen units for that set from IKEA.
If we had more time, I would've built the kitchen and just bought the worktop, but with limited prep and build time, you can't physically do that. Once we had the designs, I found new versions of things we could buy, and worked together with the director Rachel (Bagshaw) and designer Charlie (Espiner) to find items that we were all happy with. I set deadlines for finding a second-hand version – so if I didn’t by that date, I could buy the new version that had already been approved.
Were there any surprises for you in working to make this project greener?
There are always surprises! It did pain me to buy the IKEA units. It was in three sections which look like one, and we broke it back down into three sections afterwards and it's now in three different offices here at the Unicorn, the main part of it in the Stage Management office.
The other surprise I found with the kitchen was that I only needed a metre and a half of kitchen counter. But most people who were selling kitchen units were selling the whole thing, and I couldn't find anyone who was willing to just give me one part of it, because obviously they'd then be left with something that's incomplete.
Did the fact that this was a filmed project have implications for its sustainability?
The difference between film sets and theatre sets is that a film set is received really close up: so it has to be exactly like the design, every tiny detail correct. I could've got some second-hand things and they would've been a bit scruffy or rough around the edges, but the audience wouldn't have noticed from five or six metres away. Because the set that we painted was seen so close up, it took a lot of paint to make it that detailed, whereas if it was much further away, we could have done a lot less paint to get the same effect.
Our hotel set was meant to be a five-star hotel! We had to get a desk, and everything that we found that was second-hand was scratched or a bit damaged, which we might've gotten away with if it was six metres away from the audience. But because it was close-up, it had to be pristine in order to get the look right. So we had to get new in the end.
Did you find that we had a lot of stuff at the Unicorn in the prop department that we could use already?
Actually, a lot of the props were either from our stock or borrowed from people in the Production department, so we didn't buy that much. I spent the last couple of weeks with all my cereal in various other pots and pans in my kitchen, because its containers were in our kitchen set! My poor son had to give up his spade from his sandpit. Even the ASM brought in their footstool from home. There were quite a few food consumables, but even then, anything leftover was handed out to everyone in the building.
What were the ways that we reduced what we were using, besides recycling and reusing things?
Besides reusing wood from our other shows, we used quite a lot of furniture from our building as well. We took the big grey chair from our Green Room for the hotel set, which was a bit sun-bleached at the back, but we put a throw over it to disguise it – which meant we didn’t have to buy a whole new piece of furniture, for example.
What were the most significant sustainability wins on this project?
A lot of the stuff we used has gone on further life, on other shows: there are a lot of really great networking groups out there, like Set Swap. Somebody took Ariadne’s windbreaker for another show: things like that are so specific that there's no point in us just holding it in our store, forever. This went to a fringe production, and they're not going to have that much money. The brolly as well, the sand, the ball pit balls - we don't need three thousand ball pit balls in the prop store!
We also built the set with flats so that we could take them all apart afterwards, so that's really expanded our stock wood for the next season.