Setting the scene

It’s all very technical! Set break down courtesy of Kevin Butcher

How do you create a set where a set has not gone before? with lots of thinking outside the box(es) and much musing in the wings (attached to 6ft poles).

Deciding to create a very present set for a play that by its very nature is setless and relies solely on the actors physicality and a few bamboo canes was not an easy choice to make. So why did i?

I have asked myself this question on more than one occasion whilst developing ‘100’ first performed by The Imaginary body in 2002. Is it needed? Am i trying to be too gimmicky? What purpose does it ultimately serve? and if the originators of the play saw it they would surely gasp in horror…..right?

My first reasoning was to add an extra dimension to the piece – turning an entirely blank canvas into a canvas with greater structure and substance. I felt that i wanted to represent the spaces explored within the play in a very real way- thus realising a very different aesthetic to what has gone before with other companies.

Since developing the idea of a ‘set’- something which has not always appealed to me s a theatre practitioner, i have discovered the many ways in which my final design lends itself to the overall production. It becomes a vehicle to establish space and memory so relevant to the theme of ‘100’, it distinguishes between the characters reminiscence and the environment they finally find themselves in.

The set also acts to bring our amazing animations to life – created especially for the piece by visual genius Thomas Hughes.

The design has gone from curtains on huge clothes rails, through a set of moving walls to its final incarnation as a literal ‘canvas’ on which our characters depict their stories and shift the set to aid the realisation of their memories.

Of course we have yet to put the set to the test and it will most probably reincarnate itself again once we discover what we can (or can’t) do with it, but that’s what it’s all about and hopefully the writers of ‘100’ would say a big ‘why the hell not?’ to making their bare bones production into something a little more clothed!

Jacqueline Avery

Co-director ‘100’ AsCend physical theatre

A massive thank you to The Feathered Nest, Shillingstone for making the set, Tim Robinson for the carpentry and Kevin Butcher for technical drawings/material sourcing

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