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Dancing at Lughnasa

Set & Costume Designer

I entered my speculative set and costume design of Dancing at Lughnasa (by Brian Friel) for the Nottingham Playhouse Prize. Despite being unsuccessful, being one of twelve finalists gave me a great experience in presenting my designs to the director and production manager. As with all my design projects, I throughly enjoyed the research - this time into 1930s Ireland. After reading the script and intitial research, I started designing the set and costumes. I find it easy to work in 3D so often found myself making quick mock up models in white card in order to get the structures out in front of me. Storyboarding the play helped me visualise each scene and understand the key elements to the set.


The play revolves around the lead character Michael, who is telling the story of his childhood, being brought up by his sisters. He is metaphorically looking back to the past and so I wanted him to be sat at the side, physically doing so. I envisioned the set to be his visual remembrance of his childhood home and as he was a child back then, in my original designs, aspects of the set were distorted in different scales - as it would appear larger to a small child. The wooden beams and harsh angles referenced the Pagan religion they grew up in and the tree was an important feature in my design. Their lifestyle was heavily domestic and their livlihood depended on it. Therefore in Act 1, summer, the motherly figure Kate is hanging the washing out to dry on the tree and the washing line connecting nature/exterior to the house/interior. Natural elements were particuarly emphasised and I desired to portray the family in relation to nature. In Act 2, Autumn, the leaves start to fall off the trees and here, metaphorically, it is the clothes that are taken down. Michael, the child, also had dreams of a close relationship with his father, which he never had; his father promised him a bike and he never forgot this final promise of which he was sure his father would not let him down. Therefore I had transparent bikes of all colours suspended in the air - the stage after all is his mind and I liked the idea of the bikes floating around in there. A promise that was never fulfilled.


I developped my skills in Photoshop and AutoCad, producing scale techical drawings including ground plans and side elevevations. Using these programmes helped transfer my ideas from the 3D model into 2D on paper which were easily readable for the potential build. We had meetings with the director, Andrew Breakwell, giving us a chance to go through our ideas and discuss any thing important. 

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