HenryVI photo by Ellie Kurttz

I met with Ultz to discuss our upcoming talk ( 6 pm 14th march free !) and it seemed we shared a nervousness of the images of design for their own sake, which is a bit rich when i have just launched a website , but i have always had an uneasy feeling about displaying work divorced from its context. There is a great temptation to judge a design simply on an instant aesthetic appeal , when actually what moves me in theatre is the moments when the actor, the image, the words or sound come together to create a moment in time, brief but powerful. Over the RSC History cycle we had the chance over 8 plays to build a language of imagery that repeated and developed, so that each new version was coloured by a memory of what had come before. In the thrust space we used  falling feathers, sand, petals etc as a way of achieving a momentary three dimensional image in the space. In Richard II , a penitent Richard shed his fine clothes, asked for a looking glass and then cleaned off all his make-up and finally pulled off his wig to reveal an ulcerous scalp. Left alone on stage dust began to fall on him echoing of the description of him riding through the streets of london as people threw ashes  from open windows.

Richard 2 photo Ellie Kurttz HenryVI photo by Ellie KurttzHenryVI photo by Ellie Kurttz

In Henry VIII part 3,  Henry, another penitent king, prisoner in the tower of london imagines the battle of Towton fought in his name in which there was famously so much blood that the snow turned red. He walked alone across the stage to the sound of drumming and arrow fire while feathers turning from white to red fell on his head. The second image  grew in meaning  having seen the the first, and re-enforced the cyclical imagery of rise and fall of power throughout the plays.

Leave a Comment