2014 reflections

Please forgive a bit of introspection but 2014 has been quite a year, which has ended on a very public high note. It has been a wonderful year for collaborations both old and new and i just wanted to remember some of the many projects I am proud of, as well as the Tower Poppies that has been rightly dominating the headlines.
There has been a distinct transatlantic theme, opening American plays in the UK and taking British work to the States and a really pleasing mix of classic and new plays.
My two shows with Michael Boyd this year were wildly different and it has been especially exciting to be working with him in his first ventures outside of the RSC. It is interesting to see where his interests have focused free of the demands of running a major company. The first, ’The Big Meal’ , was a gem of a play by American Dan le Franc, which I loved, found deeply moving and in true Boydian fashion was beautifully understated. The second, the brilliant, bombastic Tamburlaine at TFNA in New York in their new one room space was a return for us to the Renaissance canon and I was surprised to discover how much Shakespeare’s Histories owe a debt to Marlowe.This was less understated , with the blood clean up at the interval in danger of upstaging the show!
I have greatly enjoyed working at both the Tricycle with Indhu Rubasingham and at the Citizen’s with Dominic Hill, both wonderful theatre spaces with a team who are able to get great results with ludicrously small resources.  I am really proud that we were able to take Red Velvet to St Ann’s in Brooklyn NY and create the ‘House that will not Stand’ in Kilburn: as with the Big Meal, a hit American play given a British aesthetic!
The Citizen’s stage allows Dominic to explore big plays in that wonderful cavernous empty space with its fantastic duct work. Martin Crewdson was disturbingly charismatic in the Libertine, while Brain Ferguson’s delivery of to be or not to be  in Hamlet on the day after the Scottish independence referendum was especially moving.

I had the extraordinary opportunity of going out to Cuba to help Chris Renshaw, with whom i have worked since 2007 on many productions of Zorro around the world, on his workshop production of Carmen. A reminder of how much can be achieved in an empty space with passion and rusty nails.

There is another landmark this year which i feel cant go unnoticed. After ten years,i am now leaving the RSC as Design Associate,It has been an great privilege to have been involved with the Company and especially to have been part of the creation of two great theatre spaces and such projects as the Histories Cycle and to have had the chance to work on so many of Shakespeare plays. More on this anon in another blog i think. Although moving on officially I feel my connections to the company remain strong in a new working relationship with Erica Whyman, the Deputy Artistic Director. We had a fruitful collaboration on The Christmas Truce, the first show i have designed on the RST stage since Macbeth, and am carrying on work with her and the rest of the company on the redevelopment plans for The Other Place which will see the Courtyard transformed into 2 rehearsal spaces, a costume store and new studio theatre.

It is an understatement to say the biggest project of the year has turned out to be Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the Tower Poppies with Paul Cummins, which has been a collaboration in the broadest sense with such a huge range of people. It has been amazing that it has happened, of course with hindsight it seems it was always destined to be a success, but there were many challenges along the way . I am especially grateful to John Brown and Deborah Shaw at the Tower for bringing me on board but also being confident enough that a theatre designer could be part of delivering such an epic undertaking. They also had the courage to stick with the project and allow it to develop and change artistically as we responded to circumstances.Without their support and practical encouragement i could never have got the Wave and Weeping window realised, nor been able to facilitate the living theatre of the volunteer poppy planting. It has been overwhelming to have been part of something that created such a strong public response.

I am hoping for a calmer 2015 but lets see…

Leave a Comment