The Marlowe
Sustainable design in The Trials – Tara Usher

Sustainable design in The Trials – Tara Usher

Ahead of The Marlowe’s production The Trials, we hear from set designer Tara Usher on creating a world ravaged by climate disaster, and how the values of the play’s environmental activist message are reflected in the craftmanship behind the production.

The design was born from conversations around a tangible but worst case scenario of the future looking at recent events and timelines, and what that could look like for all of us. For this reason, we wanted to create a space which felt relatable to the audience, hoping that by mirroring the Marlowe auditorium itself (or what would be left of it!), it would really hit home with local audiences. By basing the court room scenes in the auditorium itself, we wanted the audience to feel part of the jury and the judgement of these defendants on trial.

A photo of the set mocked up

Sustainability was key throughout the design process and considering what was essential for us to tell the story in an impactful way without being wasteful of resources. As a starting point, I created the bare bones from decking that The Marlowe already had in storage and then we looked to build on top of that using mostly recycled materials. This was done in a few ways: using offcuts of previous productions, flats which created the back walls and even repurposing the original tables from the Donmar production of The Trials. The majority of our set build was also done on site, as to reduce our travel emissions for transportation costs. After focusing on reusing past materials, we also looked forward to the future life of materials that we were using; for example choosing a double sided dance floor as our flooring, so that once it has finished its life in this production, it can become the dance floor in the Studio for years to come.

A moodboard of images displaying destruction within buildings and how nature can take over.

Of course, we didn’t just stop at set! We also made sure that 100% of our costumes were second hand, either from previous productions or charity shops – so if you notice that the whole of Kent’s charity shops are feeling a little bare, that might be on us! We replaced costume bags with natural tote bags which can be reused for many shows to come – even down to the tiny details such as using handmade card labels for these bags rather than plastic labels, we knew that every little would help!

The Trials runs from Thursday 31 August to Saturday 2 September. Tickets are available through The Trials booking page.