Making a space for the stage

Making a space for the stage

Alyson Cummins, Set Designer, reveals the process of bringing a set design concept to stage in our latest production, Quietly.

The opening lines of the play tell us that Quietly is set in Belfast in 2009, on the evening that Northern Ireland play Poland in a World Cup qualifier.

At the beginning of the design process, Jimmy Fay (Director) and I travelled to meet Owen McCafferty (Writer) in Belfast, to have a look at some different pubs which had been bombed during the Troubles (although the one we deal with in the play is fictional). Owen spoke to us about some things such as the layout, which might have made a pub a particular target. It was a great opportunity to look at the detail which characterises a contemporary Belfast pub.

Following that trip and other research, I went on to study the script in detail, working through storyboards (pictured left) and models to create a space for the action. During this part of the process it was important to take account of all of the practicalities of the play, as well as the overall conceptual idea I was trying to achieve. Things such entrances and exits, furniture and in this particular piece, the way we were going to deal with Robert’s text messages to his wife, girlfriend and someone he owes money to, were important considerations.

Working together with Jimmy Fay, it became important to create a space which allowed the story to exist and unfold in its own time. We wanted create a space which was naturalistic but also had a feeling of subtext; that it represented a space with history and ghosts. So to that end I wanted to achieve a space with different reliefs, alcoves and corridors with opportunity for depth and shadow.

Producing a model box (pictured below) was the next step. While I used it as a design tool during my process, once it was finalised it became a tool for explaining the design to the cast and crew.

Approximately a week before the previews began, the set was built up on the Peacock stage. After the actual walls go up there is still a lot of work to do on finishes and getting the amount and type of detail right.

And then we open; I do hope you enjoy!

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