I have been given a task to produce a set design which is based on the film called, "Little Shop of Horrors." As the set design is very important within theatres I am expected to create a stage which meets all of the requirements of the film as well as 1950's New York. During the process of organising an outstanding stage for an audience, I will be noting down key aspects of my planning. This includes the production of the design and as much research as possible. Also, it is essential to communicate with all members of my group and sharing new ideas. I will ensure that my ideas are original and I am asking opinions from my teacher and client. I am looking forward to creating an exciting design for the stage and an outcome I can proudly reflect on.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Model Box Set Design

Up till now, the group has made two types of sets. One included the dirt and dullness of the story whereas the other is brought to life. We are able to see comparisons of the two as it is exciting to switch the scenes in the model box. Also, we have been cutting and gluing images onto cardboard which is placed in the model box. The group is now considering which materials will be added in the set to emphasize the stage. This included investigating how we can demonstrate to the audience that the set has changed by including bright lighting or petals falling onto the ground as the florist reopens. In my opinion, the set looks as it should be because one half of the story is very unappealing whereas the second part is much more attractive but still glum.

These are the examples of images we used which were printed and stuck onto cardboard for a 3D affect:
Brick wall                                       1950 cheap flooring 
                                                                         Vintage wallpaper

Members of the team created different set designs in a smaller scale box. I photocopied images from my 1950 Mood board and attached it inside the model box to visualise if it would look suitable as one of the main backdrops in the real production. Experimenting and exchanging images enabled me to recognise how the different sets needed a different scenery to portray the correct message to the audience making it clear for them to realise a change has occurred. From this, we could take the next step into developing these ideas by using creative materials such as fabrics, paint, and tissue paper. 

Choosing the correct shop sign

As well as rusty and poorly built roads the buildings during the 1950’s were not made of high maintenance. Therefore, shop signs were delicately put up. In ‘Little shop of Horrors’ the shop signs are vital for the audience as well as the set. For that reason, the set designers for the stage will have to make shop signs particularly for the florist.

I am aware that, New York in 1950’s meant most people were living in poverty and low working class. This also reflects throughout the film of Little Shop of Horrors. For that reason, I know the shop sign cannot be glamorous but include suitable typeface which symbolises a flower shop.

This would not be a good sign because it is too formal. Also, it is not bold enough for the audience to notice. However, it has a shadow affect which mirrors the spooky storyline.  

Even though, this shop sign stands out, it is too bright and cheerful for a 1950’s symbol. As well as this but, the colours do not reflect flowers but, heat and sunshine.

This text would not be relevant as the colours used is boring and contains two colours which are not matched with one another. In addition, this text would be too confusing to read.

In my opinion, I think the colours used in this font are appropriate as green demonstrates plants. Unfortunately, it would be very dark
meaning viewers will have difficulties reading and the lettering is too closely combined together making the text unclear.

The reason why I like this colour is because, it is soft coloured and lilac indicates flowers. Also, it has a shadow which emphasises the affect. 

This was the chosen shop sign. I believe it is great as the colours are appropriate for a florist. It also is not too glamorous as it does not include rich colours. However, it still looks bold and stands out because of the bright green outline. The bright green outline shows lighting that many shops in old fashioned New York displayed. 

Client Meetings

The client is Ms. Jones as she is the Director and Producer of the show. Therefore, it is her role to require us valid information so we can make the props for the set as best as possible.

Within the first meeting, I had a variety of information to be shared. I presented visual research which included a 1950’s mood board. This gave a clear knowledge of the kind of themes we were developing into. Also, I showed a list of the important storylines in Little Shop of Horrors that needed an outstanding prop to stun the audience. In addition, I showed her a poster which I designed as an advertisement to attract viewers for the show. Initial designs of the plant were presented as I experimented with different colours and materials to make an appropriate plant.

Ms Jones really liked the colour schemes of black, green and red which was included for the posters. As well as this, she explained that it is significant that the posters met legal requirements of copyright. For that reason, I learnt I had to include legal wording on the advertisements. As I know that the beginning of the story is harsh and grubby but the second half is more glamorous but still has an element of poverty, Ms Jones, told us to ensure that the set designs for each scene is to get that message across as well as showing the contrast when the storyline changes.

This affected my design work as feedback from the client was essential so I could understand what my task was in depth. Therefore, I could ensure my work was accurate. Not only this but, I felt confident in what I was designing because I was aware of the requests from the client. Because of the fact that, I was able to portray ideas and creativity across to Ms. Jones I felt comfortable to make progress and develop skills.

It is important to discuss development with the client as she is the person who tells us what she wants for the play. Furthermore, situations may change along the way whilst in the design process. For example, dates and times may need adjusting thus new handouts of posters and advertisements need correcting before being displayed. Having regular meetings certifies that we are updated with the schedules and stay organised

Group Discussions:
As a group we are listening and expressing individual ideas across to each other. We are aware that the audience must see a dramatic difference in the setting as it changes to colourless to more joy. We are now planning to think about how the props and setting will stand on the stage. Also, the scale of imagery of the set is important. This means we need to ensure the shop signs and background images are correctly sized and placed right.

Contemporary Designer- Bob Crowley

Tarzan swinging through the trees in a African Jungle

Bob Crowley has wowed viewers from all over the world. His backdrop designs have included the biggest theatrical strikes bringing beauty to the West End and Broadway. I admire his outstanding designs which show breathtaking visual detail and striking colours which embrace the stage. The phenomenal designer has continuously impressed the audience by winning Best Scenic Designer during his career.  This includes designing for:
Carousel- 1994
Aida- 2000
The History Boys- 2006
The coast of Utopia- 2007
Mary Poppins- 2007

As well as designing sets Crowley has designed costumes for Mary Poppins and Love Never Dies. He recently had an interview with the Guardian newspaper. Crowley reveals his ambition, tough moments and determination.

When did you first want to be a set designer?
I think when I first saw Oliver! Designed by a fellow Irishman called Sean Kenny in the 60s. I saw a touring production of it in Ireland and it made a profound impression. He'd taken all the scenery away and revealed the walls of the theatre and the lighting rig. I suppose I had a slightly Victorian idea of what scenery could be, and here was a man who was actually sculpting in space.
Where did you learn your skills?
I did fine art for a while, and then I decided that I really wanted to work in the theatre, so I came to England and studied at the Bristol Old Vic theatre school for a year, then started working my way up in the business.
Breakthrough production?
The Duchess of Malfi at the Royal Exchange in about 1980, with Helen Mirren and Bob Hoskins. It was a huge critical success, and it transferred to the Roundhouse in London. I then got invited to work at the RSC, and then to work at the National. I've sort of divided my life between the two institutions.
Favourite venue?
I love the Olivier and the Royal Court. I used to love the original Other Place in Stratford, which was just a Nissen hut, but that's gone now. And I love a theatre in New York which a lot of people don't like, called the Vivian Beaumont theatre, which is not unlike the Olivier. I love big spaces like that, not because I want to put a lot of scenery in them, but because I think they're exciting.
Set and costume design for Mary Poppins
Least favourite?
Oh, that's easy. The Barbican. The RSC went from the Aldwych to the Barbican, and suddenly we were having to work underground all day long. To work all day long in a space where you never see daylight is pretty grim, really. Also, I could never get my head around the aesthetic of the Barbican – I was confused when I was working there, so God knows what it's like for a member of the public. That's kind of unforgivable.
Most upsetting experience?
I did a musical on Broadway, written by the great songwriter Paul Simon. It was his first musical. I worked on and off with Paul on that musical for about four years. It was an incredibly close partnership. And it was just a miserable experience. The critics were absolutely vitriolic about it, to what I thought was a disgraceful degree. It was the most painful experience I've ever had.
Favourite part of the job?
I love it when you get a great script, and you get a great rush of adrenaline having read it, or a composer plays you something from the score for the first time, and you think, "Crikey, this is going to be fantastic." That's a great moment. And I love the tabula rasa of the empty page, trying to work out how this thing is going to be staged. The process of beginning a project, I find scary but unbelievably exciting. That never goes away.
What would most surprise an outsider about your day-to-day work?
I think the amount of detail we go into – at every single part of the process, there are hundreds of decisions being made all the time, about colour, about texture, about detail, about light, about where you place something on a stage. For instance, having just done Ph├Ędre, there was an empty stage, but into that I had to place chairs. And the process I went through to find the correct chair! The minute you put a chair on stage, it tells you a period, it tells you a culture, it tells you a civilisation – you can place that space instantly by the information that a chair gives you. We went through hundreds of different variations, and I wound up designing them in the end. It's the hardest thing in the world to design a chair! Somebody ended up calling them Etruscan, or something like that. I could deal with Etruscan – but Conran, I couldn't have dealt with.
Advice for someone wanting to do what you do?
Can you put what you do into five words or less?
I create other worlds.

Chilling atmosphere: North Pole set

Striking graphic for Tarzan Musical

Interview with Production Designer

A professional production designer was interviewed who had been working in theatre, film and television since 1990.

What interested you in production designing?
I loved the theatre as a child when I saw the first pantomime. When I realised I had the ability for art it made sense to become a theatre designer.

What problems did you encounter?
It was highly competitive industry. You have to be really ambitious and skilled to succeed. Also, you work on a self employed freelance basis. This means if you don’t have a job that month you don’t get paid. You’re responsible for generating your own work. You have to be disciplined with cash flow.

What qualifications did you take?
Have to have an aptitude for Art design. Helps to be interested in history as you have to be able to look at the past and design historical detail. You must be strong in 3D design. Before I qualified I took a foundation course in art. Then I continued on BA degree in theatre design. Finally I qualified MA in film and television design. 

How much do you get paid?
The pay is very good in film and television especially commercial work. Commercial work a designer can get over £500 a day! As its freelance you only get paid for the days you work. So you balance periods of unemployment.

How do you deal with the stress of looking for work?
You have to network meaning you find yourself agents as they help you find work. They will take a percentage of your income as a fee. You make sure you socialise with people in the business.

The pros and cons of being a designer?
Good- extremely varied you’re always doing different tasks. It’s very creative and the pay is good especially when you are head of department. You can travel around the world such as Spain staying in nice hotels.
Challenging parts of working- very high levels of responsibility and stress. Also, dealing with tight budgets can be tough and meeting deadlines.  Job insecurity- you never know what your next job will be. It’s very demanding that it may take over personal family life. 

Have you ever been criticised about your work?
Once it was a technical issue about sightlines. You have to make sure the entire audience can see the action on stage.

What is it like showing your work to an audience?
It’s very exciting especially some nights when you sit in the audience and get a very positive audience reaction as they applause because of the set design. You realise that you have a significant impact on how much the audience enjoys and understands the performance.

What do you think is the most important skill as a product designer?
Communication- you must be able to communicate your visual ideas to a large amount of people.

The Production Designer

The production designer working in the theatre film or television industry is responsible for the creation of an overall appearance in films, TV programmes, music videos, adverts or set design.  Their creative roll means they are required to select the style of a set to visually tell a story to the audience. This is supported with a team of directors and producers who give the production designer a brief on how they would like the final design to look. Within this exciting and open minded role, many responsibilities are indeed needed for a successful result. 
Qualifications related in the design areas of becoming a production designer are extremely important. The reason for this is they learn essential skills for the upcoming industry.  It is a huge benefit for them to be trained in an art specialist university or school as this enables them to thoroughly gain knowledge specializing in 3D, theatre or film design which provides relevant skills. A design qualification allows the person to build a strong portfolio which shows imagination, creativity and understanding. Although it is possible to become a production designer without a degree they would need to prove they are a talented artist with an outstanding portfolio and establishments which show the person has worked their way up from an ability stage in the industry. Also, you would need to show you stand out from the crowd as a lot of competition is involved form aspiring artists around the world. Therefore, intensive work experience may include working in a theatre set design production and individual opportunities such as entering competitions demonstrate strong enthusiasm to become a production designer.
Within pre-production a production designer must be analytical in what they are researching. This means, they must recognize & read scripts to understand a film, television and also the production process for marketing. This allows the design to visualize ideas through artistic and drawing skills so they are communicating their own thoughts to the client. It is vital for production designers to have an extensive knowledge of the historical styles. The reason for this is because, they must be aware of the particular time zone so they can visualize life in different centuries. Also, they can get inspiration from historic features. Organization is essential for keeping the art department in schedule as they need to manage the budget also ensure everything runs smoothly. It is their responsibility to be aware of the budget as they will be buying particular equipment and props within the required cost. They must feel confident in managing the production and be able to set out specific tasks for each crew member. It would be difficult to work with the director and producer if production designers find it difficult to share their thoughts and discuss civilly. Therefore they must be collaborative whilst communicating to the crew members and be respectfully prepared if the client is not keen on the design ideas. Production designers should be able to demonstrate technical skills. This includes constructing a small model of the set as this shows their developed initial idea in a more realistic form.
They may be a gifted artist but can working under pressure over take them? Patience is necessary while carrying out several tasks which production designers are managing. To help them many personal qualities are appreciated. Keeping organised can reduce stress levels while carrying out a production. Also, an encouraging individuality helps keep the crew motivated and excited in the project they are participating in. As well as being artistic, creative and imaginative they should also have an eye for detail. Moreover, production designers need to be recognised for having the ability to adapt to any task given. 

Theatre Production Roles

Theatre Director- A theatre director manages the actors and directs the action in the production of a show. Also, they arrange the production of the play by combining various activates and roles. Also, it is their responsibility to make certain the quality and every scene is up to their expectations which are created working with the creative crew members.

Producer- The responsibility for a theatre producer is to control all of the development in the production. Working with the director, the producer is normally the creator and finder of the script which begins to start the process. As well as this, they hire essential people for advertising the production. The producer ensures there is efficient team work who also fixes problems which may take place.
Designer- The set designer is greatly part of the artistic side of a theatre production. They must create visual ideas for each scene related to the script guided by the director’s preference. Therefore, they initially start of by sketching all of the scenes as well as constructing a model of each scene using different materials. It is there requirements to design each scene that will be approved by the director’s vision of the play. After the ideas are developed, the technical craft workers build the different sets. However, the designs for each scene are not finalized as changes may occur during rehearsals.
Lighting Designer- Occupying with the director, set designer, costume designer, and sometimes the sound designer and choreographer the lighting designer creates specific lighting effects for different scenes. This lighting is added to create a certain effect relevant to the scenes so they must ensure the lighting corresponds relevantly.

Musical Director- Not only do musical directors carry out the music but they may audition actors to identify who is most suited for the job. Generally musical directors are talented singers or musicians who prepare the actors by training them the songs and observe the orchestra. For musical directors to be talented very much benefits the cast as they are aware of many features of music.
Stage Manager – From actors and technicians to props and lighting in the right place stage managers ensure everyone and everything is participated in the production. Working with all types of crew members stage managers certify the production runs smoothly. This is by, managing rehearsals, designers and costume fittings as they work in a fundamental association between the artistic and technical aspects.
Stage Crew- The main role for stage crew members is to change or move scenery at the correct time whilst working backstage during a performance. In the theatrical production they must handle property and ensure everything is moved safely and precisely. However, there are many more people working on set with different tasks such as the costume designer who assists change of clothing and a make-up artist who transforms different styles. This role requires the members to work quickly and quietly.
Choreographer- Often, the choreographer creates new dances and composes a sequence of dance steps which are related to the storyline. They are responsible to make casting decisions with the director.
Construction Manager- This type of managing consists of controlling the project from start to finish expected to meet from the client needs to produce the project and financial completion. Their responsibility is to finish in time within the required cost and desired quality.
Dresser/Wardrobe Assistant- As the actors wear appropriate and relevant costumes the dresser puts together a mixture of costumes with the help of a wardrobe assistant who may purchase the garments and accessories. They may than alter these clothes if changes are needed. It is also important for them to keep track of the different outfits for each actor and ensure all clothing’s are prepared to wear when needed. 

Publicist- Advertising is key role for a publicist as the task is to attract the target audience to see the production. The publicist may decide to hire creative artists and designers to produce leaflets and posters. To help them promote the theatre play advertising can be published on television, magazines and newspapers. Also, they are in charge of legal copyright. This means, unless the production has permission of the company who owns the legal rights they cannot continue with the project as it is a reproduction of the original film.

From my research, I have recognized there are many responsibilities for each staff that works in a specific role to ensure the performance goes as best as possible. Without a great number of team members professionalizing in their different roles a production cannot be at a high quality which will give the audience a less meaningful experience. 

Stage Terms

Stage blocking- Decided by the director, they assist actors where they should be positioned on a stage. These instructions benefit the performance as the actors are aware which movement to undertake. This makes sure the stage does not become too overcrowded.
Sightlines- The audience must be able to see every part of the stage from eye level whether they are seated in the centre or side. A good sightline determines the viewers will see all areas of the stage. 
Stage Directions- The director must make sure the sightlines for the audience are clear at all angles while positioning actors. These directions should be noted in their scripts as they should be memorized.

The terms are directed facing from the audience view. Therefore, if actors are told to move to the right they will move to the left as this is the right side for the audience.
Upstage: moving away from the audience, towards the back of the stage.
Downstage: Moving towards the audience, towards the front of the stage.
Stage Right: Moving towards the actors left but viewer’s right (facing the audience)
Stage Left: Moving towards the actor’s right but viewer’s left (facing audience). 

It is highly beneficial for actors to learn these theatrical terms as it saves time for the director to regularly point out where they want the actors positioned. It also helps the actors experience to behave and think professionally in the theatrical environment.

Safety is number one priority and should be thoroughly checked before any performance:

  • Only harmless rubber props such as swords, guns and knives should be used. NEVER use real weapons. 
  • Sound effects for gun shots is required. Some professional prop guns may cause harm.
  • Real fire should never be used on stage. Glowing light or glittering torch behind creative craft materials are used as alternatives.
  • Stage fights must remain 100% harmless. They must be professionally practised stunts.
  • As exciting as smoke effects may be, it should be minimized as even professionally stage equipment can create irrational mist to the performers. 
  • Finally, ensure all props are solid and safe. Heavy objects that are able to  come apart will cause harm and embarrassment!

Musical Sets

Little Shop of Horrors

The actors are wearing clothing from 1950 time period. This can be identified with the bright ankle socks, high waist trousers and skirts as well as nerdy jumpers. Also, it shows this musical is in a poverty period due to the  poorly constructed buildings and graffiti. 

 Lord of the Rings

This set creates a warrior and fighting theme. It consists of cold colours such as grey and risky red. With these coloured combined the set becomes a tense impression.


This play is set in 1926. The clothing worn shows glamour but sets a mysterious vibe through the colour and dim lighting. It is a suspicious atmosphere which signifies wealth but crime through the spotlight that shows someone is being targeted. 


The actors are dressed as cats as they are surrounded by trash cans and litter. They may be positioned in a Junk yard which means dirt and grime. In addition, there is a lot of festive lighting all around the night set which shows excitement and catastrophe.

Les Miserables

Fire colours are present at this scene. Red,yellow and orange shows danger and risk taking. The smoky set of actors dressed in cheap and torn clothing may mean  to fighting for freedom. This can also suggest slavery.

It is important to be aware how a set can influence what you indicate the story may be about. To make a successful set design the key importance is to ensure the message which the play is about must be visually portrayed. I have reconsigned the moods different sets gives away. It can be shown through colour, lighting and positioning of props to create a powerful scene. This also keeps the audience hooked onto the performance. 

Types of staging

A proscenium theatre includes the main element of a large frame or arch which is positioned on or close to the front of the stage. It is described that in Latin, the use of expression "proscenium" means "in front of the scenery."
Comprised in a proscenium theatre, the viewers are directly facing the stage with no audience on either side. The stage is usually raised above the front row audience level. The performance is seen through the proscenium arch and the key area is the space behind the proscenium arch which is frequently noticeable by a curtain that can be lowered and drawn closed. However, any space that cannot be viewed to the audience is named as offstage.
  • Backdrops, curtains and lighting can be used to greater effect without risk of rigging being visible to the audience.
  • Entrances and exits can be made more graceful; surprise becomes possible.
  • The actors only have to concentrate on playing to the audience in one direction. 

  •  It is difficult (though not impossible) to turn it into something else
  • May be considered boring
A thrust stage allows the audience to glance from three sides and is joined to the backstage area by its up stage end. Entrances onto a thrust are most willingly made from backstage although some entrances may possibly enter through the audience. The audience in a thrust stage theatre may view the stage from three or more sides. If a performance employs the fourth wall, that imaginary wall must be maintained on multiple sides.

  • Closeness of the semi-circle seating, the close audience relationship to the performance
  • Many people could watch the play since the seating arrangement did not go all the way around the stage.
  • Everyone would see the actors in different angles

In the round provides any theatre space in which the audience are surrounded around the stage area. The stage itself is in general round, diamond, or triangular, with actors entering and exiting through the audience from different directions or from below the stage. Such a space is usually configured with the stage on an even level with or lowered below the audience in a "pit" or "arena" formation. This configuration lends itself to high-energy productions, and is especially favoured by producers of classical theatre.

  • Gives off the most intimacy.
  • Audience is right there, sitting in the first row, and all the action is right there in your face.
  • The audience gets closer to the action because of the seating on all four sides

    • Because of the seating being around the whole stage, scenery cannot really be all the elaborate and amazing.
    • Some of the audience members would be blocked out of the performance.
    • This restricted actors and directors choices for some of the movements on stage.
    • There is no barrier from the stage

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Colours & Moods

RED:Associated with love, danger, violence, anger & blood. In set design this colour can be used in love and violent fire scenes.

YELLOW: Represents joy, happiness, hope, sunshine,  summer. It is a symbol of friendship. This colour would be used in a happy scene also to show the summer season. 

PINK: Described to show femininity, sweet, kind & relaxing.  Pink would be desired for a set of a glamorous party or to portray a teenage girls bedroom.

GREEN: This colour signifies nature, the environment, health, luck, youth, spring & generosity. However, it could suggest jealousy and envy. It would be used outside such as in a rainforest  or garden.

PURPLE: Means royalty, luxury, wealth & knowledge. Could be used to show a expensive looking living room. 

ORANGE: It is considered a warm colour, enthusiasm & vibrancy.  This colour could be used at relaxing sets or even fire scenes.

BLUE: Represents peace, calm, trust, confidence, cleanliness & water. On the other hand it may suggest depression. This colour would represent the sea or ice. 

BROWN: This colour indicates reliability, genuineness. It can also be sad, regretful & masculine. Brown would be used for a fight or grubby setting. 


BLACK: This is a strong colour which symbols power, evil, sophistication, anger and death scenes. Also for crime and darkness. 

   WHITE: Symbolises innocence, purity,elegance, light & neutral. However it can be judged to be boring. Would be used to represent weddings.