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.
Five freestanding scaffolding towers later (all borrowed locally), painted black and housing everything we needed, we were sorted. It was such a simple set to construct! Dressing took a little longer though … We wanted a rich look. In the play there was a note that suggested that in the dream sequence (which involved a courtly dance) a ‘punk-Elizabethan’ look might be used. Punk-Elizabthan sounded like a recipe for an awful lot of fun in the costume making department to me, so I went for everyone punk-Elizabethan throughout the play. Lots of red and black for the Capulets, Green and black for the Montagues. So, the set dressing played on these richly decorated costumes and used equally rich fabrics. We sourced them from anywhere and everywhere! Shawls, curtains, throws, rugs, lengths of material, you name it – if it looked right it was on the set!
Lots of plant in tubs and ivy creeping up the towers ivy gave the set a mediterraen feel and helped to give the impression of heat. The painted backdrop clearly indicated that we were in a city. The close proximity of the towers made it look and feel claustrophobic. The plaza was the perfect meeting place with plenty of places to run and hide in-between the towers. ‘Waiting’ was a theme running through the play. They were waiting for the outcome of trials following the deaths. It’s hot, they’re all bored, angry and waiting… Having the cast on stage, in their ‘homes’ just waiting added to the tension (especially as they weren’t always lit so we created a sort of twilight zone for everyone on stage not immediately involved in the action).
If I were to give one piece of advice when creating a set I think it would be this: List everything you want to achieve with your set and then devise a way to achieve it. Do not compromise what you want to achieve – just be flexible in HOW you can achieve it
There were many different locations in this play – scene changes would have been disastrous. So my list went a bit like this:
- All locations required on one set
- Different levels for different acting areas/homes
- Central meeting place
- The set must facilitate tension
- Rich, deep colours
- Hiding places and alleyways
The lighting, of course, is the icing on the cake …
Set design by Emma Gibbons & Barbara Hockley.