The design – Tom Bannerman

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Why I am interested in being part of the creatives team for the production?

Some people like crosswords or play chess. I like solving the stage’s puzzles. However, I can’t do it by myself; I must work with a team of artists bringing to the production ideas and responses prompted by others in the group.

Any work of art begins not knowing the result. The resolution of an artwork comes only after a journey of sorts into the unknown. Along the way experiments are performed, discoveries are made, surprises are revealed, responses take the intrepid artists further until, eventually, the artwork is resolved, whatever it is and wherever it has reached.

The play’s study of political, social and moral subjects, attracted me to it. The increasingly disturbing power of the media is particularly relevant to today’s audience. The notion of altruism is so often eclipsed by competition and greed. What, exactly, is meant by “bleeding hearts”? Apparently, it’s a character-flaw. Is it wrong to care, to identify injustice, to support those needing help?

Another reason I am attracted to the play is the challenge of including filmic imagery with stage-performers, something I have not experienced as a set-designer. On the occasions I’ve seen simultaneous projection and live performance I have found it to be unsatisfactory – too often the filmic image is little more than a backdrop, a contemporary means of achieving the same result as an old-fashioned painterly system.

The play calls for a theatrical solution to staging, which is another attraction for me.

What I hope to achieve:

I support the director’s intention to alter the Drill Hall’s stage-space to surprise Mullumbimby’s audience, and to do this within the company’s means, using its available expertise and stock. Of course, I must resolve a scenographic device useful to the actors in their presentation of the play. The set must accommodate rapid scene-shifts, include front and rear projection as well as a surtitle panel, the latter having an aesthetic role as much as an informative one, sometimes like a Brechtian device. An important aspect of the scenography is its visual triggers used to suggest places, for example. For me, this is a more interesting way of staging plays than literalism – too often the latter just blocks imagination and can just get in the way of instantaneous transitions.

On the design itself:
This is founded on projection of filmic images with surtitles. Where are these to appear? What spaces are needed to achieve this? Can these spaces be successfully used by the actors to achieve their objectives? Flexibility in the set with necessary fixed projection positions is the conundrum that both the director and I must recognise and appreciate. Somehow we must solve the puzzle of space, image, darkness and light, text, sound, time, semiotics, performance and so on. The process is quite complex but results in an apparently simple solution. I hope we have got the best out of the Drill Hall.

Tom Bannerman