(L-R Jonathan Forbes, Miriam Margolyes, Frances Barber)
Photo by Simon Annand
By John Misto
Director: Jez Bond
Oliver Mackwood Productions/Park Theatre Productions
Starring Miriam Margolyes, Frances Barber and Jonathan Forbes
Madame Rubinstein tells the story of the cosmetics entrepreneur, art collector, artist's muse and eccentric businesswoman, Helena Rubinstein, who died one of the richest women in the world. The play follows her relationships with assistant Patrick and arch-rival Elizabeth Arden over her final years between 1957-1965. The action jumps between numerous locations over fourteen snappy scenes but as we spend the majority of the evening in Rubinstein's Manhattan office it required a neutral space that could change quickly and simply with the addition of furniture, props and lighting states. As Rubinstein was such a pioneer of advertising, it felt appropriate to use an original Rubinstein perfume advertisement for the back drop, blowing it up and adding the pixelated halftone effect, it also gave a psychedelic wallpaper feel when viewed close up. Rubinstein was also frequently monitored by her rivals, bugging devices are referenced to in the play so I enjoyed the fact the woman in the advert watched over the action all night long. The lower half of the back wall is based on a 1950s office wall system clad with a printed material which can appear translucent when back lit, shadows of assistants and assailants hovering upstage. The Park Theatre is a tricky space to design for. As it is a thrust stage it has very wide sight lines, our play required doors and walls so they had to be as far upstage as possible but I felt this period office wall with the bold added graphic was a decent solution. Costuming these wonderful actors was a real joy although with so many scenes and changes in period it often became more about logistics. That said I am very proud with how they all looked as they tore chunks out of each other each night.
Photography by Simon Annand
By Tennessee Williams
Director Josh Seymour
Alex Turner Productions
A man on death row looks back on his life, examining the circumstances and characters that caused his demise. We were interested in creating a fluid environment where characters could appear and disappear from the playing space as in Ollie’s memories-colliding and overlapping, telling the story in a series of flashbacks. Much of the design was made up of architectural serge masking, designed to reduce the bouncing of light so the actors were suspended in the inky blackness. The facetted mirrored box upstage served as Ollie’s holding cell, As well as for moments of self reflection, it was particularly successful when two characters stood in front, their reflections distorted and overlapping. After the final moment of Ollie’s execution, the mirrors swung open, spilling a cascade of letters written to Ollie whilst in prison from the men he had touched.
Photography by Alex Brenner
by Elena Bolster
White Bear Theatre, Kennington
Director Natasha Pryce
An ageing artist finds love and passion with his young muse. Part play, part poem, this piece shifted from spoken word directed at the audience to intimate moments between the characters. The wooden floor, paint spattered to suggest an artist’s studio, rises upstage to form both the crest of a wave and the hull of a ship in recognition of where the characters meet as well as the repeated nautical metaphors in the poetry.
By Hannah Graham
Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Tour
Director Natasha Pryce
A grieving woman finds solace in a 1930s starlet and her world of make-believe. This touring one-woman show used spoken word, poetry and songs to tell her story creating three very different worlds. One of these involved her escaping to her parent’s attic to play dress up so this became our anchor for a location. I used the idea of makeshift shrine built of items she may have found in the loft such as suitcases, a large round rug and in particular an old dressing table decorated with fake flowers, candles and pictures of her idol. This, together with the stacks of cardboard boxes, became a useful device for discovering the props and costume that moved the story along.
A Catered Affair
Book by Harvey Fierstein
Music by John Bucchino
Royal Academy of Music
Director Matt Ryan
In the planning of her daughter’s upcoming nuptials , a middle aged woman examines her own marriage. The director and I wanted to suggest the hive-like living conditions of the tenements buildings in the Bronx in the 1950s, nothing is private, everyone knows everyone else’s business. A chorus of women stood atop rust-red stepladders, hanging washing on lines above the stage as if at their windows looking into the apartment of the main family. On the back wall I hung more stepladders horizontally which were incredibly evocative of the iconic New York fire escapes.
By Adam Gwon
Director Adam Lenson
A small musical with a huge heart. The story follows four characters weaving in and out of each others lives in New York City. The conceit of the design came from a pivotal scene at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The concrete plinths, initially suggesting the skyscrapers of the New York skyline, were slowly colonised by props throughout the show, each scene leaving an item of significance behind, thereby creating an exhibition of the characters lives and stories.
Who Will Carry the Word?
By Charlotte Delbo
Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton
Director Natasha Pryce
Women in a German Concentration camp discuss the urgency of their story’s endurance. Although this piece told the stories of these fifteen characters, I felt it important to recognise the millions of other people who never got to tell their stories. I tried to acknowledge the scale of this by attaching hundreds of luggage tags to wire fences. To suggest the labour that took place, rather than break rocks, these women continually shifted stained scaffold planks back and forth, these also served as benches and beds for some scenes
A lot of my work in the theatre world has been as an associate or assistant to other theatre designers on many productions in the UK and internationally. I wanted to have a small record of some of the modelmaking I have done for these designers over the years to demonstrate the standard of my work. Please get in touch if you are interested in these services.