The Greenhouse Series: What's Love Got to do with it? A Greenhouse Retrospective

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This year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival saw a slightly unusual edition courtesy of St. Andrews students and graduates - the festival’s first ever zero-waste venue in the form of The Greenhouse. The project was quite literally built from the ground up, as the people behind the Greenhouse not only wrote, produced and performed all the shows, but also built the venue themselves from recycled materials. 

In the Greenhouse Series, three of the creatives behind the project share a piece of their Fringe experience. First is Phoebe Angeni, actor, who performed in Greenhouse’s Shellshock!, who shares her thoughts on love for the project, but also the difficulties faced when having to adjust to a zero-waste life style.

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By Phoebe Angeni

When I auditioned for The Greenhouse, I thought: ‘Perfect – another chance to hit the Fringe, to do it better and longer than last year, and to celebrate the end of my time in University while kicking off the start of my acting career.’ What I didn’t realise was how much I would fall in love this past August – with the musical I was part of, with our beautiful venue, and with the whole Greenhouse community.

The Fringe is an infatuating time - a hyperbole of everyday life. Every thought and feeling is magnified exponentially by the amount of performing, show-seeing, and the sheer proximity of a city filled to bursting (each flat much a microcosm of this energy)

But I loved performing at The Greenhouse - changing outdoors, playing in all weathers, finding grass on all my clothes. I loved my cast and all the ridiculous times we had together. I loved the exec team, the builders, the other actors – I saw every show at our venue, some many times, and I know that by the end of the festival most Greenhouse folk could probably have jumped in and performed just about every piece.

I even loved standing in a bin on the Royal Mile instead of flyering almost every day – just because of the wonderful people and vibrancy surrounding me. We became a little family grouped around our love for theatre and the environment, even as we branched out into the world of the festival.

But while the philosophy behind The Greenhouse is easy to be enamoured by, the project wasn’t perfect, nor should it have been. Greenhouse Central did a great job of sticking to its zero-waste commitment, but the lifestyles of all individuals involved (including myself) didn’t quite live up to the promises of our environmentalist aims.

The creation of an ideal, embodied by The Greenhouse, doesn’t guarantee its automatic or immediate achievement in everyday life. It generates a goal to strive for, a common aim through which to gather a community. It is through this community that we build conversations, continuing both to fail and to do better together.

We as individuals didn’t quite live up to the reclaimed ceiling of our temple of ecology and arts, but we did improve as a community, and we accomplished something pretty great. More important than achieving perfection was to make a start in changing the way we approach theatre-making – to harness the wild creative energy of the Fringe to impact the larger world.

If we as a team of St Andrews students and grads can start a conversation that spread throughout the Fringe (and beyond), then anyone can participate in creating a greener future. I hope that we can, as a community, work to make Greenhouse ideals more than a Fringe infatuation. I hope that we continue to fail and try again, that we keep conversing and learning, and that it all adds up to make both positive change and excellent theatre. 

ST.ART Magazine