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I often take pictures of the work in progress during the production period of shows I design. Perhaps it's the theatre designer's version of nerdishness but I enjoy seeing workshops in action, as well as being interested in the very different conditions in which set construction can take place.

The thumbnail pictures below provide links to several more, larger pictures of the workshops concerned; some include pictures of the show's strike (Knickers) and set transportation (Tartuffe)

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The Frog and the Lion Fairy (July 1998)

I only took pictures of this show in rehearsal and during its construction. As I was busy teaching I didn't manage to see the show on the road until its penultimate performance when I realised my camera was out of film. My real focus on the show, I have to admit, was in the text's adaptation and the mise en scene which I found absorbing and stimulating. The resulting show's text (in Greek) has become the basis of a larger, more ambitious project which we hope will be developed in Cyprus in the near future.

Sam Roelandts' workshop

The simple set was built by an ex-student of Wimbledon School of Art's Technical Arts Interpretation course, Sam Roelandts, whose workshop is a shared railway arch in Brixton, South London. It was designed around two found elements: the heavily weathered panelled door and the Venetian blind which I'd had stored at home for several years waiting for when it might come in useful. The material costs had to be kept very low as we had prioritised the budget to pay all the personnel involved (5 actors, stage manager, composer, director, designer) so most of the set budget went to Sam!. He built the set in three days, I did the small amount of painting involved.

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Tartuffe (Nicosia, Cyprus 1997)

The National Theatre of Cyprus building itself only houses its costume workshops; the scenic construction workshop is several kilometers away on the outskirts of Nicosia. The workshop is only a year or two old and is a major part of a purpose built complex incorporating a new studio theatre which had its inaugural production in March 1997.

Nicosia's workshops

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Blood Brothers (Theater Heilbron, Germany 1993)

The theatre in Heilbron was opened in 1983. The town is reputedly one of the wealthiest in Germany and is situated not far from Stuttgart on the river Necker. The workshops are spacious, well equipped and staffed. The theatre operates a repertory system and each show thus needs to be able to be set up within a four hour change over. There are two full stage crews working on a shift system meaning the theatre almost runs on a 24 hour cycle. Altogether it is an impressive operation.

thumbnail of wood workshop

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The Knickers (Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 1991)

The Set for Knickers was built by Adrian Snell whose workshop is in Leicester. The show's production manager, Jonathan Bartlett, commissioned the build within a very tight budget. The set was ambitious with its multiple rakes, substantial staircase reaching from beneath the stage up into the fly tower and even purpose built lift downstage centre for the window to the Maskes' first floor apartment. The pictures were taken on my one visit to Adrian's workshop when the set build was nearly complete and the painters were midway through painting all that was ready.

The pictures of the show's strike remind me how much quicker it is to take a set to pieces than fit it up.

Kickers set thumbnail
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