We spoke to Ben Stones, designer for Wild Oats, about the process of designing for a 18th century play in a 18th century theatre for a theatre audience in 2012.
How would you describe your role?
As the designer of a production your main job is to visually tell a story and remain true to the text. From the props, costumes and environment you create the world that the play inhabits. It can be a long process to get the right balance that responds well to the spirit of the writing. The design evolves from many meetings, sketches, scribbles, discussions, arguments, dinners, models, breakfasts, and research… a lot goes into what you see onstage.
How long have you been working on Wild Oats?
The design for Wild Oats developed over many months. Mark (Rosenblatt, director) and I chatted at length about different styles of production and the period of the play. We knew early on that we didn’t want to do a 18th Century production. We eventually landed on an eclectic blend of 20th Century looks for the show, which allowed us more scope to be playful with the imagery and settings.
It sounds like you and Mark don’t shy away from a challenge!
Wild Oats possesses quite a few staging challenges and sometimes design can be about solving problems. How do you do a scene written with 13 characters and only 11 actors? How do you create a farm and a cottage with a garden gate onstage at the same time, quickly? How do you stage a scene like the inn/pub that shifts focus throughout various locations within and around it?
Was it daunting facing such strict necessities with regards to the staging?
We realised quickly that naturalism was not the way to go, as the settings would be very expensive and slow down the story with vast scene changes. After a memorable 13 hour meeting sweating over the model box, we removed all unnecessary pieces to be left with an empty space. While this could be terrifying, for Mark and I it was a liberating decision that led us to a more playful approach to the piece.
Wild Oats runs in the Theatre until 20 Oct.