By Lucy Askew, Creation Theatre Chief Executive and Creative Producer
Nearly every day when I read the news there’s another leading scientist warning that the window to stop catastrophic climate change has nearly closed. We soak up the reports, maybe buy a shampoo bar or a bamboo straw and for the most part go about our lives relatively unchanged. Across all industries we need to think bigger, we need to be more selfless and we need to make drastic changes to the way we live our lives, to preserve the planet for future generations. I’ve pondered how we could reduce our environmental impact at Creation for years. We used recycled paper for our scripts and biodegradable cups in the bar, but the elephant in the room was that our livelihoods depended on persuading strangers to leave their homes and in most cases travel by car, bus or train to shows.
Our digital work over the past 15 months has shown us a route to making far more meaningful carbon reductions in our industry. As this report shows, carbon
emissions are reduced by a staggering 98% when you compare digital to analogue performances. We are of course not advocating that all theatre should become digital, but it is clear that significant gains could be made if these reductions were multiplied out: If producers and venues adopted “digital seasons” with audiences experiencing live performances from home.
“Ah but what about the ‘Digital Divide’?” Well, streaming Zoom requires a mere 1.5 megabits per second; 96% of households in the UK have broadband with an average speed of 64 megabits per second. Yes, there’s a worrying 4% there that we currently wouldn’t be able to reach. However, in 2018 only 52% of the population purchased theatre tickets. I think it’s clear that the physical locations we are traditionally choosing are no better placed to overcome access issues, and to discard the potential of digital work to reach more people would undoubtedly be short-sighted.
Digital Theatre is a new emerging medium, it can be present, moving, dangerous and give you goose bumps just as being in an auditorium can. “Analogue” Theatre has been my life for a long time, and I love it passionately, but for all its wonderful life-affirming enriching qualities, can we really afford to keep going the way we are when we could contribute more to saving the world? Greta Thunberg famously said, “I want you to act like your house is on fire, because it is.” As we switch on the parcans and congratulate ourselves for attracting audiences from a wide geographical reach, are we heeding Greta’s words, or fanning the flames? Maybe there really are times when the show mustn’t go on; but should go online.