Victoria, our designer, is a recent graduate from LIPA. James met her at a networking event organised by Matthew Xia as part of the Open Exchange ran by The Royal Exchange in Manchester. Her passion, approach and portfolio left a lasting impression on James and he was very keen for her to be involved on Parallel. We interviewed three designers for the position and Victoria stood out not only because of the quality of her work, but how deeply she connected to the content of the piece. James and her developed an instant rapport and a shared artistic vision built around collaboration and joint investigation. Seeing them work together has been a joy. Victoria has designed a world I never imagined - it both supports and elevates the writing. Before she buried herself in the workshop to do the set build, she wrote this blog - reflecting on the design process up to the first day of rehearsal.
Hello! I'm Victoria, the set and costume designer for Parallel and Laura has asked me to write a little insight into the design process for those who may be interested in what goes in to creating the world you will eventually see on stage.
The design process for Parallel has so far been a wonderful experience, as my first job out of university I feel incredibly lucky to have found myself working with a team of people who are so supportive, open and exciting!
As of Monday 1st Feb we go in to the workshop to make this world come alive!
But back to the beginning...
The process began for me in July when I applied for the job and had to face that first hurdle that a new and curious designer has to deal with: confidence! When asked to send James and Laura my first responses to the script I worried that my approach would be off-putting. Every designer has their own individual way of getting into a new text and mine is to write as much as possible; every thought and silly notion that comes into my head whilst reading. Then I condense and look at what stands out, what are your intuitions, impressions and ideas? I hesitated a little before sending them only written impressions as I feared they would be looking for someone who could send them images in abundance with an idea of what the set would look like already... It seems I was right to have trusted myself and stuck to my practice! That was lesson number 1.
After the summer James and I met again and ensconced ourselves in a corner of a coffee shop for our first proper design meeting. We spent a few hours discussing the defining concepts of the play, sense of space, characters, abstraction and realism... This time we both brought along visuals which inspired us and it turned out we both had the same kinds of images in mind. Armed with copious notes and a much better understanding of James' view of the project I went home to explore those ideas and let them grow.
We met about once a month after this to discuss how much we had progressed whilst keeping in touch online. Happily its been very easy to communicate with James as he's a very visual director and sees the design as an integral part of the creation of the play, rather than simply as a backdrop!
I found myself having problems progressing the design into 3D which I realised I couldn't get passed until I'd seen the space. Usually it would be the first thing to do upon beginning a project but as we were in Manchester and the theatre wasn't... it was a few months until I could actually be inside the room the play would take place in. It was, of course, the huge help I needed to push the design forward and I gave myself the deadline of finishing the white card model (general design though often without finalised textures/paintwork etc) by our last production meeting in December so the team could get a sense of the space they'd be working in.
On Monday, first day of rehearsals I'll present the finished model box to everyone. It's often a nerve-wracking moment, even if you're happy with your design... months of work, hundreds of choices, changes, angry outbursts and papercuts have hopefully created something comprehensible, buildable and complementary to the piece.
Right now we're still working out how to build the set within the budget, what kinds of seating we will use for the audience, whether or not to use a suitcase... spoilers! I'll also be working with the actors throughout the rehearsal process on their costumes as they develop their characters (and change between them)
So things may well change along the way but that's all part of the process. It's sometimes a bit scary to sign a contract agreeing to create something, the idea of which hasn't even been conceived yet. You are agreeing to deal with any problem which may arise, though you have no concept yet of what those issues may be!
However that's what the team is for. Liaising with the production/stage managers has helped me to better understand the building and costing process, James' experience with fringe productions has been a great help and in general everyone has been very supportive!
For now it's time to get out the painting clothes...
Working in partnership with West Yorkshire Theatre Network we'll be sharing the creative process of our next production, Parallel from start to finish.