Theatre Design Exhibition

In this film I will be taking you on a virtual tour of this exhibition demonstrating my design process leading up to the performances of four operas produced by Clonter between 2009 and 2015 When you first enter the exhibition on your left you will see four costume illustrations These were commissioned for a costume workshop for Clonter’s education and outreach program, which I have been keenly involved with over the years Groups from local schools have been able to have a go at designing their own versions of the characters of Carmen. Dr Dulcamara queen of the night and Papageno The first opera displayed is Clonter’s spring production of Cosi Fan Tutte, which was performed in 2009 This was the first production I designed for Clonter and it was also the very first opera I designed If you’re unfamiliar with the story Cosi Fan Tutte composed by Mozart it is about two apparently devoted couples They’re idealistic worlds are challenged by the cynical Don Alfonso he states that all women are fickle in their affections and to prove this he proposes that the young men trick the women by donning disguises and swapping girlfriends to see how swiftly the women will fall for somebody else Although the Opera was first performed in 1790 the creation you see in the model is a simple set inspired by the Bay of Naples in the 1920s The challenge with this design brief was to create an original and unique production by upcycling as much readily available material on-site as possible in 2015 Clonter staged a brand new version of this popular opera with new direction and a new cast Although Cosi Fan Tutte was first performed in 1790. It’s themes are still very attractive to today’s directors who often respond to the challenge of setting it in different areas And this is challenge shared by designers too because of the the scope offered for introducing novel elements and engaging in mutually rewarding collaboration In the case of the 2015 Clonter production the director cleverly came up with the concept of setting in a school initially a semi staged version was discussed for the 2015 performance which would mean there were most likely be no set at all. Just perhaps costume and props nevertheless the project became increasingly ambitious And efforts are awarded to the extent that this production secured a nomination for a Manchester theater award in the best opera category for 2015 Set in the school for lovers. Don Alfonso is played as a Wiley school prefect and the two young couples as young pupils Despina the long-suffering maid to the girls than the original story can’t resist getting drawn into mischief by Donning a number of disguises herself as well as being the school in lady in our version To tell the story the director and I divided a simple wall of lockers that could be adapted for each scene Hiding set dressing and props inside all of them so that they could be produced when needed by the performers Every small detail has to be researched and planned by the designer This involves taking precise measurements of the performance area and constructing everything to scale so that it will fit perfectly The lockers and the school crests are examples of this process not to mention the parquet floor effect My goal is to create something visually pleasing on stage that obviously entertains the audience but also Satisfies the intentions of everyone else working on the Opera La Traviata is the story of a young Courtesan Violetta who can only afford her lavish lifestyle by relying on the pockets of rich men in the city Her world is thrown into disarray when she falls in love with the relatively penniless, Alfredo Through my discussion of the director we found ourselves being drawn to the visual aesthetic of Vienna at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries To convey the opulent world the characters would inhabit on the stage I took inspiration from the gold leaf that was used extensively throughout the Vienna Adorning the grandest buildings and also in fact used in some paintings by artists of the time the gold metallic textures an explosion of symbolic riches cascading from the corner of the set Unlike real gold is shown as the performance Unfolds to corrode and rust until it is eventually peeled away in front of the audience’s eyes This corresponds to the deterioration of the Violetta’s health as the events of the town unfold When the story ends the stage is left an empty shell stripped of its former glory. I have combined my role as a designer with the job of scenic artists for all the productions at Clonter Although technically the two jobs are not one and the same It’s very easy to get carried away in pursuit of the look you’re after and one advantage of combining the two jobs Is that it allows you to realize your own vision in the most perfect way possible New designs often leave me to experiment with unfamiliar materials and techniques sometimes I just have to figure it out as I go I experimented with all sorts of textured layers such as metallic wall paper foil safety blankets and paint plaster All sorts to get the effect of the walls Model-making helps me to figure out how the set will be created in its real size Understanding how scene changes will happen and how to make props and scenic elements Can be explored by trying things out in a small scale first Model making is really important to me is when I get a real sense of how the space will work for the performance it Is an excellent tool for me to communicate with the director and better at explaining myself with objects. You can see rather than with words A costume can tell the audience a lot about the character I use my costume illustrations as a discussion point when exchanging ideas with a director and the wardrobe department I also find it useful to just have the time out whilst illustrating them to think further about more technical and practical aspects of the project for example They mean a lot to me when they finish because of what they represent The final opera displayed in the exhibition is Hansel and Gretel the composer Engelbert Humperdinck wrote the music based on the fairy tale in 1891 the story follows the familiar journey of a brother and sister getting lost in the woods away from home and encountering an enticing gingerbread house Which unfortunately is also the home of the witch whose aim is to catch them so she can cook and eat them in The Opera they also meet some other characters in the woods such as the Sandman and the Jew fairy To stage this famous fairy tale with a new twist on the original the director wanted to stay just to steer clear of the obvious fairytale cliches and Explore with me certain ideas hidden in the story’s message The wood was seen as being much about the psychology of the children’s adolescence and the fears and Coping mechanisms their counter along the way So the appearance of the wood I explored Various expressionist artists and historical events and for all of these you can see examples in my sketchbook Research is essential For me when piecing together the concept and finding the answers to all the questions that come up in discussion along the way The gingerbread house is seen as symbolizing something irresistible to the children yet. Not necessarily being good for them It is what lures them to being caught by the witch in the end after all in This version instead of having them over indulge in sweet treats the gingerbread house becomes something else with the same symbolic purpose in this example a shop window This is crammed full of brightly colored disposable consumer goods of the sort the children simply can’t resist If you are yourself rather too keen on designer labels, you will understand The witch is in control Interested only in profit and knowing how superficial appearances will prove irresistible to consumers Her worthless ideas has turned her into a bird out over made-up hag Hansel and Gretel of course defeat the witch in the end but not before temporarily succumbing to temptation The technical challenge of Clonter was to transform the stage several times with easy and seamless scene changes Despite it being without a fly tower where scenery can be flown in and out from above Act one set in Hansel and Gretel’s family home with designed have a very structured and symmetrical form This had to completely fold and pack itself away to reveal a twisting and winding wood full of dead-end stairs that lead to nowhere with menacing yet beguiling trees Lighting played a huge part in creating this atmosphere. This opera was also nominated for a Manchester theater award for best design For me Designing set and costume is all about telling stories Creating worlds and characters on stage which have the potential to be enjoyable for everybody Working on a production can often feel like taking part of the drama itself. There’s comedy suspense Tension and dare I say even tragedy and I definitely have examples of all of these but stories set to music are perhaps the best of all

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