Archives For Set & Props

Wonderful Offbeat sets and props

The next Offbeat Theatre production has been a long time coming. After the darkness that was The Killing of Poe in February 2016 we had the promise of a lighter one act play courtesy of The Space in December 2016, which we cancelled for our own inexplicable reasons. But now … we have the emergence of THE FROG KING! Hooray! And here he is – the Frog King in construction! Early days for the play (and his head), but rehearsals and complex set building will commence soon.

The Frog King Offbeat Theatre

The location for the performances is a closely guarded, well kept secret that will only be revealed half an hour before the start (ok, it’s in Bredenbury). Audience numbers will be restricted as this production is even more unusual than the others we’ve performed at this particular location … More on that to come, but suffice to say it’s in more than one ‘room’. More than two even. Intrigued? We hope so.

Plot? Well, the script is being finalised (which is code for ‘written’) as I type. Or rather when I finish typing and get back to the far more important task of ‘finalising’ the script. Funny how, at times like this when you have a very important task to finish off, you suddenly realise you absolutely need to clean the windows – even though you have never noticed that your house actually has windows until the very moment when you caught yourself gazing out of one. I jest, I have no intention of cleaning windows, vacuuming carpets, washing up or anything else that might distract me from the joyous task that is finishing the script (serious face).

So, plot then? Well, have you ever noticed how the same fairy tale (The Frog Prince for example) is told in more or less the same way, with more or less the same outcome using more or less the same characters? Ever wondered what might happen if the plot was subject to quite a major change? No, I hadn’t either, until the Storyteller in my story changed something rather crucial – and you have no idea what that’s done to fairytale-land. To be honest, it’s all getting rather silly and it’s going to take something very magical to fix it. So, I can safely say, hand on heart (not the one the evil troll turned to stone, the other one), that this is a show full of magic, surreal daftness, puppets, beautiful sets, frogs and more royalty than is necessary in one castle. It’s for adults and small adults, but not tiny ones under the age of 7 (at a guess, I may be wrong). See you there?

THE FROG KING: Friday 4th, Saturday 5th (2 performances) and Sunday 6th AUGUST.

The Wheelie Set

Barbara —  March 28, 2014 — Leave a comment
The whole set - everything else is on wheels!

The whole set – everything else is on wheels!

So you have a big cast and a play with LOADS of different locations – any one of which would be a challenge to stage. I directed Terry Pratchett’s ‘Wyrd Sisters’ a few years back and had just that scenario. I’ve said it before .. I will do anything to avoid a scene change. That moment when people dressed in black come on and remove things and/or add things just kills it for me. So we have ‘the blasted heath’, a road somewhere, a theatre, Nanny Ogg’s kitchen, a dungeon with instruments of torure, the throne room, a garden/wood and many other locations that are only required for an odd minute here and there. Of course you’re not going to build up each location and remove it afterwards – it would take all night. But how can you do it quickly, convincingly and creatively? Continue Reading…

The set (and costumes/lights) for 'After Juliet'. by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, moody lights. Beautiful.

The set (and costumes/lights) for ‘After Juliet’. by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, moody lights. Beautiful.

This was a fantastic set to work on. After Juliet is a moody, brooding beast of a one act play set just after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. It deals with the anger, pain and frustration of Romeo and Juliet’s family and friends as they wallow in the aftermath of the tragedy. It’s dark, hot, stuffy, moody and dramatic. The set, costumes and lighting had to reflect that. It is also set within the homes of various families and friends and also, crucially, in a central meeting place – a place for romance, friendship and fighting. We wanted a multipurpose set where homes were overlooking the meeting place – the plaza. We wanted different levels, colours, hiding places, narrow alleyways. We absolutely did not want a single set change to interrupt the action (actually, I never do). Enter scaffolding towers. Continue Reading…

Everything on the set has purpose ..

Everything on the set has purpose ..

There’s a ‘dramatic principle’ that Chekhov famously illustrated about what you should and should not have on set (or in your play if you’re writing). He said something along the lines of ‘don’t put a loaded gun on stage unless you intend it to go off’ or ‘don’t mention there’s a gun hanging on the wall in Act I unless you intend it to go off in Act III’ (you’ll find many variations if you search for ‘Chekhov’s gun’). His point being that you should not raise the expectations of the audience by drawing attention to an item that actually has no purpose or relevance to the plot. Interesting. I have read about this a few times and the interpretation of his words always comes out slightly differently. So, what should you put on your set and what should you leave out? Continue Reading…

Me and my set

Barbara —  February 16, 2014 — 4 Comments
If your cast are acting in a space like this you really need it weeks ahead! James & the Giant Peach.

If your cast are acting in a space like this you really need it weeks ahead! James & the Giant Peach.Peach design by Jim Rolt.

I have a very intimate relationship with my set when I’m directing a show. Very, very intimate and important. The set is something that starts to take shape in my mind long before the cast have appeared. As I read the script I start to play around with ideas. How will it look? What will it feel like? How can I create the required atmosphere? What do I actually need on stage? What would I like to have? And .. very importantly for me .. how can I avoid scene changes? (See Elegant Scene Changes for my feelings about scene changes). I start my design right there and it evolves with the production. There are lots of different ways to use to the stage – this is just my process, my take on it. My relationship with my set. Continue Reading…


The set for Beauty & the Beast used 3 revolves!

Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything comes to a standstill, the magic disappears, the lights go dim and people in black clothes start whoosing around the stage moving bits of the set on and off. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) are closed to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogther (as if we don’t know what’s going on). Then, after the scene change break, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario – I will not have scene changes if I’m directing. I will not have people in black infiltrating the production…. Continue Reading…

I’ve just had a great time sorting through all the Bugsy photos and 1920s style photos that I collected when we did our own production of Bugsy Malone a few years back. We had so much fun doing that show. In fact, there’s nothing like a musical with a live band, dancing, singing, a great set and glitzy costumes to really create that amazing feelgood factor you get in theatre. I think we had a 9-piece band, a fantastic set (see the board!), a great choreographer, excellent singers and .. I had a brilliant time directing. I do remember that when it came to sorting out the costumes though we ran into problems. I asked locally (we had a large drama store serving the county with costumes for youth groups and schools), and they politely refused to costume the show (that really took me by surprise). Splurge, of course, is the problem! No one wants their costumes splurged and how can you do Bugsy without the mess? I looked around online and yes, there were places that would supply costumes but they were WAY out of my budget and comfort zone. We had a big cast – of course we did, you can’t do the show without! Also, I wanted really good costumes – boas, beads, sequins, glamour, fringed dresses – everything! The choeographer went to the West End to see Chicago and came back with large ostrich feather fans on the agenda. So, we decided that Offbeat Theatre (run by myself & my partner Jim), would costume the show … (yes that did include large ostrich feather fans) and Jim would make the splurge guns that Offbeat would finance. So, over the months that folowed we made costumes and bought 1920s style everything I could find on Ebay! Well, to be honest I didn’t actually make any costumes – I’m not safe with a pattern and a pairs of scissors, but I knew someone who could and did. In the end we had a huge amount of costumes and an enormous bill that we carefully ignored until it was all over. We had a tearful standing ovation (me and the choreographer – we were the tearful ones) on the last night and then it was all over. Continue Reading…

This is the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast. We started with the backstory (the bit about the Prince being turned into a Beast) – I hate it when you get to the end of a show and there’s a long explanation of how everything came to be, how awful it’s all been and how glad they all are that the spell has been broken etc …..

The Beast allows Beauty to return home after she sees (in the magic mirror) that her Father is ill. But .. she must return in one week. But her sisters, Phoebe and Sissy, have other ideas. Here they convince her that to return after only one week would be selfish, they need her and so does her Father… They do, of course, have a much darker plan underneath the jolly sounding song!