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.

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”

A Tale of Two Exhibitions

(Originally published in Blue Pages, the journal of The Society of British Theatre Designers)

In 1979 my mum was running the art gallery at Harlow Playhouse, I was very small (but apparently not too small to be captivated by theatre models) and the UK won the Golden Triga at the Prague Quadrennial. Three and a half decades later I find myself organising a display of theatre design in the same town and meeting a new generation of young people. But we’ll have to wait until later in the year before we know about the Golden Triga.

A post-war new town, Harlow has a remarkable history of civic cultural activity; when it was founded it even had its own string quartet. Its single most notable aspect is the sculpture collection, and Harlow was recently given the official title of “Sculpture Town”. It’s even on the signs as you drive in. Harlow’s arts scene was greatly diminished in the late 80s and 90s, mainly because of rate-capping, and for a while it was without an art gallery. It also lost its iconic 1950s Town Hall, designed by the town’s master planner, Sir Frederic Gibberd. The replacement building is architecturally bland but does house a fantastic exhibition space. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Exhibitions”

How to See a Voice: Designing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BSL for Shakespeare’s Globe

(Originally published in Blue Pages, the journal of The Society of British Theatre Designers)

Designing for deaf audiences brings very specific, practical challenges but also opens up huge new possibilities. As Deafinitely Theatre’s artistic director, Paula Garfield explains,

Deafinitely Theatre’s style is to be visual and so for me what we bring is that visual storytelling and I don’t just mean British Sign Language. I want to see the story happen visually on the stage to make it clear for any audience. That is why the design is so important as it compliments that visual storytelling element.

This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream came about as a result of the success of Deafinitely’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost for the Globe to Globe season two years ago. Deafinitely’s inclusion in Globe to Globe clearly signposts British Sign Language not just as a tool for accessibility but as a language in its own right. And what’s particularly exciting to a designer is that BSL is a visual language. Globe to Globe and Deafinitely also share a vision of productions transcending their specific languages, whether BSL, Italian or Guajarati; our production was very specifically conceived as being for a mixed deaf/hearing audience.

Continue reading “How to See a Voice: Designing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in BSL for Shakespeare’s Globe”

A Bigger Splash: Painting after performance – a personal response

(Originally published in Blue Pages, the journal of The Society of British Theatre Designers)

Visiting A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance, currently at Tate Modern, is an odd experience for a theatre designer. The exhibition interrogates the relationship between performance and painting – and, in fact, other visual media – from a variety of angles, sometimes tenuously but almost always in a way that is engaging and thought-provoking. However, it does this entirely within the frame of reference of visual art. It is as if performance outside the art gallery either does not exist or is merely a cultural phenomenon to be knowingly referenced; not a major group of art-forms that have their own evolutions, their own traditions and their own avant-garde movements. Yet we, as theatre designers, are engaging with many of the same issues as the artists in the exhibition, and with no less professionalism and integrity.

Continue reading “A Bigger Splash: Painting after performance – a personal response”