Opera North’s Alcina: setting the standard for sustainable productions

Posted Case study, News

Opera North have started their 2022 season with a bang, staging Alcina as their first fully sustainable main stage production at Leeds Grand Theatre. The production has been guided by the principles set out in the award-winning sustainability standard, the Theatre Green Book.

The set and costumes have integrated recycled, reused and second-hand materials, and the environmental footprint associated with sourcing and moving resources as part of the production’s tour has also been considered, pooling deliveries to reduce transport emissions.  

Speaking to The Stage, Kieron Docherty, Opera North’s Technical and Production Designer, outlines the process by which materials are sourced, reusing in the first instance: “repurposing and repainting old stock to fit with Hannah Clark’s design; and similarly with the costumes and wigs, to look actually at what we’ve got, what we can reuse”. If reuse isn’t an option, materials have been sourced second-hand, and lastly from recycled resources.

“Once you’ve got a handle on what the tools might be in the toolbox, then reusing existing stock is an interesting challenge, rather than just a scary unknown”
Hannah Clark, Designer

Opera North have dug into their archives to source set and props for Alcina, which for Hannah Clark, Set and Costume designer of Alcina was a new and interesting challenge as part of this production: “once you’ve got a handle on what the tools might be in the toolbox, then reusing existing stock is an interesting challenge, rather than just a scary unknown”.

This isn’t just a one-hit wonder for Opera North though, as they intend to weave the principles set out in the Theatre Green Book into their future productions, reflecting on the lessons learnt from this production to make their next equally as sustainable: “We’ve learned a lot about what you can do, as well as what you can’t do”; “the other kind of discoveries you make on the journey of becoming more sustainable [include], for instance, realising that next time you’d need a longer lead time in order to facilitate X or Y”.

SAIL are delighted to see such brilliant innovation happening right here in Leeds, and spearheaded by one of SAIL’s founding members. Alcina is now on tour throughout March, visiting The Lowry, Salford Quays, Theatre Royal, Nottingham, and Theatre Royal, Newcastle. You can read more of The Stage’s interview with Opera North here and read more about Alcina and book your tickets here


From hosting enlightening workshops to rehoming unused resources, from equipping individuals with Carbon Literacy Training to partnering with local organisations for greener events, SAIL is taking the lead in West Yorkshire’s creative and cultural scene. But we’re not doing it alone. Our strength lies in our community, in the passionate and dedicated individuals and organisations committed to fostering a more sustainable future.

We’ve made a significant impact, but there’s still much to be done. We need you to join us on this journey. As a member of SAIL, you’ll not only gain access to our network and resources, but you’ll also play a vital role in driving the sustainability movement in our local creative and cultural industries.