Welcome!

I am a freelance designer of sets, costumes and videos for performance and artistic director of Daedalus Theatre Company. This site is a kind of online portfolio for my work as as visual artist and designer, as well as a blog.

I am also a writer and consultant for Angkriz Academy, the fiddle player in South London’s premier gay socialist folk band (as far as we know) and other music projects, and an activist with Tower Hamlets Green Party. I also occasionally teach at university level and work on youth arts projects.

I am a member of Equity and I’m on the committee of the Society of British Theatre Designers. I’m also part of the Scene Change and Freelancers Make Theatre Work networks. I helped found The King’s Hall Trust for the Arts, and am currently its chair.

I’m committed to making my design practice sustainable and am a member of the SBTD’s Sustainable Design Group and the Staging Change network, as well as a signatory to, and steering group member of, the Ecostage pledge.

A Letter From an Old Democracy to One Struggling to be Born

Dear students,

I’m writing to you from 5,929 miles away in London, while you risk both your safety and your liberty in the struggle for democracy in Thailand. I worry about your wellbeing, of course, but mainly I’m proud of you for standing up for what you believe in.

I want to say a few words to those of you I’ve had the honour to teach, and to any others who are interested in the perspective of someone with many years’ experience of British politics. I want to say something about why I think democracy matters. It may not be for the reasons you think.

Continue reading “A Letter From an Old Democracy to One Struggling to be Born”

Crowdfunding Awkwardness

So… this is tricky.

It’s not often I do any crowdfunding for things I’m working on. But now two crowdfunding drives have come along at once. Oops.

One is for the theatre company I run, Daedalus. We need some funds to move our community storytelling project East online. If you follow me on social media, you’ll know about that because I’ve been posting about quite a lot.

And now there’s Ecostage, an initiative led by a group of theatre designers to foster sustainable practice in the performing arts. I’ll be telling my social media followers more about that over the coming days, and doubtless post something here too.

But for now, I want to say why I think crowdfunding is the right thing to do.

Continue reading “Crowdfunding Awkwardness”

COVID-19 Contingency Plan for Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit — Daedalus Theatre Company

We’ve postponed Mobile Incitement, the project I’m currently directing for Daedalus Theatre Company… Here’s the official statement.

We hope you’re all well and staying safe. We’ve had to reschedule our activities, and we really only have one active project at the moment: Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit, which was to start touring in June, with a second leg in the autumn. We’re working on the basis that we should…

via COVID-19 Contingency Plan for Gerrard Winstanley’s True and Righteous Mobile Incitement Unit — Daedalus Theatre Company

Staging Places at the V&A

You only have till the middle of March to catch Staging Places at the V&A. Curated by Fiona Watt and designed by Andreas Skourtis, it’s a great exhibition that not only reflects design for performance by practitioners active in the UK over the last four years, but also delves into and attempts to demystify the design process. In the same open and exploratory spirit, the exhibition design incorporates a round table, at which we’re hosting events and discussions. Follow The Society of British Theatre Designers on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook to keep up-to-date. Or better still, join!

Panos Andrianos has made a teaser video for the exhibition, with sound by design by Romanos Papazotos:

Continue reading “Staging Places at the V&A”

Love and Information

I’ve just done a great project with Pegasus Young Company: a production of Carol Churchill’s Love and Information, directed by Corinne Micallef. The cast members were a great ensemble, highly supportive of each other, and really engaged with the piece at a conceptual level. It was really collaborative and we had some great discussions about how the design should work dramaturgically, as well as working through stuff practically, including with the modelbox.

I pulled together a bunch of images from my process for the marketing team to use, including a video of my sketchbook. And I thought I would share them here. Continue reading “Love and Information”

4.48 Psychosis is back

I’m rather delighted that not only is my design for 4.48 Psychosis featured in the SBTD‘s exhibition Staging Places: UK Design for Performance, currently at the V&A Museum, the production itself is also being revived. A huge, sell-out success last year, Deafinitely Theatre‘s bilingual production will soon be in London, Derby and Cardiff, with a new cast but the same design. You can book tickets here, but do hurry up as they’re selling fast.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of opportunity to see the exhibition. It’s been extended till March. I shouldn’t praise it too much, as I had a small role in the team that put it together, but I can safely say I’m very pleased indeed with what we achieved. I wrote about it previously here.

Finally, there’s an amazing Staging Places website that has been created as a kind of online gallery to accompany the exhibition. My page on it is here but it features a lot more designers, in addition to those of us in the physical exhibition. It’s definitely worth spending some time with.

How Not to Save the World

There’s a vanguardist streak in the environmental movement which I think does more harm than good. It can lead to an alienating kind of arrogance that we can’t afford. We desperately need more people on our side if we are to build up the critical mass of public opinion necessary for the scale of change we need. Not that we don’t need people to take the lead. But taking a lead is not an end in itself. It’s pointless if you don’t take people with you. The vanguard is not the movement; the vanguard is a possible catalyst for the movement.

There are many lessons to learn from the twin fiascos of Trump and Brexit: one is that people act on their feelings, not on rational analysis. Another thing to consider is that most of the damage inflicted on the environment is carried out by wealthy people and corporations. It’s important for the rest of us to be good, green consumers, but that’s nothing compared to the scale of change we need, which is radical and systemic. Basically, we need government action and, while protest and publicity stunts are fine for bringing issues to attention, large-scale change is only going to happen if enough people care. Most politicians will only do what gets votes. Put all these things together and, as I’ve been saying for a long time, the way to save the environment is for people to want it to be saved. They need to feel it’s their struggle, to choose to make the necessary sacrifices now so that future generations may live bearable lives. Continue reading “How Not to Save the World”

Staging Places: UK Design for Performance

A big part of my life recently has been the Staging Place project.

The Prague Quadrennial (PQ) is the world’s leading exhibition of design for performance. It’s an amazing thing: professional and student displays from all over the globe, talks, discussions, performances, exhibitions… The UK has traditionally done well at it too, frequently winning major prizes, though this is pretty much never reported in the UK press.

It’s also become something of a tradition for us to show the display at the V&A Museum in London after bringing it back from Prague. And sometimes to tour it to other venues in the UK.

The Society of British Theatre Designers takes the lead on this rather complex project. I’m on the SBTD committee but I didn’t want to get too involved as it’s very time consuming.

Reader, I got very involved. Continue reading “Staging Places: UK Design for Performance”

On the Loss of Citizenship

This is probably my last night here as a citizen. My family’s been coming here since my aunt worked in Italy in the 70s. It’s a modest, friendly ex-mining village in a beautiful corner of the Alps: lovely for walking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. It has a downhill slope too, which is OK but not great. And good mountain-biking, if you like that kind of thing. It’s unpretentious. It’s not expensive, as these things go. Some crazy Brits and others come to risk their lives climbing frozen waterfalls but most the people who come here are Italian. It’s very white and I’d guess a fair few residents voted for the fascists of La Lega. There’s some poverty. People are generally kind, and go out their way to be helpful. There are things that drive me crazy and many things I love, the same as in the UK.

We have long-standing friends here. We always stay in the same apartment. My aunt knows most the village. I haven’t been coming here as long as her but when I go to the shops I meet people I know. My aunt comes here twice a year, and after she retired she spent 11 months here. She sometimes gives free English lessons. And when she’s been ill, or had a problem with the car, or had any other kind of trouble, there’s never been any shortage of help. We’re not locals, but we feel at home here. And of course we share citizenship. You see more regional than national flags here, and you also see plenty of EU ones. Continue reading “On the Loss of Citizenship”

Designing Deafinitely Theatre’s 4.48 Psychosis

We’ve been getting some very enthusiastic responses from audience members for our production of Sarah Kane’s 4.48 Psychosis, and some great reviews, so I thought it might be worth sharing some thoughts on my design process.

The play is hard to read on the page: hard in two senses of the word. It’s gruelling emotionally but also abstracted, opaque, fractured and ambiguous. It’s constructed from fragments of naturalistic dialogue, inner monologue and poetry, all shored up into a kind of barrier against obvious interpretation. The author’s own distressing experiences are rendered into a set of cyphers that hide her personal truths from the people watching, reading or making a performance of the play. The temptation, therefore, is to try to find the key to unlock the code and expose her original meanings, but this seems to me to be a pointless – and impossible – quest. Instead, each production should create its own key, and decode these fragments into a new set of meanings that resonate for the artists involved. That’s very much what happened here, with director Paula Garfield’s emphasis on two overlapping crises of mental health – one amongst the deaf population and one amongst men – and the communication failures and lack of comprehension that exacerbate them. Continue reading “Designing Deafinitely Theatre’s 4.48 Psychosis”