It’s hard not being able to welcome audiences to Lighthouse for the time being, but Poole’s centre for the arts has been enjoying a welcome taste of normality as a new theatre company takes up residency to work on its next production – an adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. 

“It’s incredibly quiet in the building, but we feel really lucky to be in a performance space and working,” says artist Lucy Green who is in Poole with her new company Green Submarine and co-producers Tom Dixon and Paul Moss working on scenes and designing artworks for the production. 

The three were at Lighthouse last autumn with The HandleBards performing a uniquely daft take on Romeo and Juliet as part of the inaugural Lighthouse OUTSIDE season of outdoors performances that paved the way for the return of live shows before the second wave of COVID hit. 

A conversation over lunch with Lighthouse Head of Programming Tim Colegate led to an invitation to take up a two-week residency in the Sherling Studio to work on the new company’s first show. 

“It was a really lovely connection as I started Green Submarine to explore eco-values in theatre so working on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in Poole seems the perfect place to start,” explains Lucy. 

“The entire show is made of single use plastic waste – the sets, the props, as much of the costumes as possible. I’ve been keeping all the plastic in my life for the last year or so and I’ve become the person whose friends just hand their leftover plastic to because I’ll put it to use. What that means is that my whole house has been crammed to the rafters with plastic – there’s plastic behind sofas, in all the cupboards, everywhere.  

“It’s quite overwhelming to see how much plastic is in your life over that time – and I’m someone who tries to make better choices and live as plastic-free as possible. That’s why it’s very important to me that the show is as recyclable as it can be – so that once it has run its course it can all be recycled. I’m not using glues that could be poisonous, I’m using wire instead, and I’ve found this chalk-based paint to use so that it can be washed away afterwards.” 

The original idea was to make a one-person theatre show, but as the coronavirus pandemic has progressed the production has had to evolve, says Lucy. 

“Instead of a conventional show it will be an interactive exhibition featuring a series of scenes that can be accessed through QR codes and watched on mobile phones or tablets. That way we remove the live element and households or social bubbles enjoy the exhibition without any COVID risks. The scenes will follow Captain Nemo and Professor Arronax on their quest to find a monster that seems to be leaving a trail of plastic waste or ‘monster matter’ in its wake. 

“It’s aimed at primary school students and their families. So the idea is that an adult could wander in off the street, maybe on their lunch break, and engage with the artworks; or families perhaps could arrange a visit and use their devices to access the scenes so they can experience them together. I’m thinking of producing art packs to send out to groups that are planning visits, so they can share some information, plastic facts, marine stories, that kind of thing.” 

Elspeth McBain, Lighthouse Chief Executive, comments: “We are so pleased that despite all public facing activity being postponed due to Lockdown 3.0, we can still support artists to develop the work we will want to see when we can have audiences back in our venues. Artist development is a really important part of what we do at Lighthouse and we are delighted to have Green Submarine as one of the companies we are working with.” 

Lucy and the Green Submarine crew will continue to develop the show over the coming months before – COVID-permitting – returning to Lighthouse in the summer to work on more ideas. 

“And of course,” she adds, “once it’s made and ready to go then I hope it can be installed at Lighthouse.” 

Published 19 January 2021