New production company Tiny Fires, comprised of director Paul Robinson and producer Tara Finney, are presenting the first London revival in over 25 years of Charlotte Keatley’s My Mother Said I Never Should at the St James Theatre this spring. We talk to director Paul, set designer Signe Beckmann and costume designer Helen Coyston about their vision and roles in creating a bold new version of this iconic play.
Q: What’s your approach for dealing with a script that does not play out in chronological order but instead jumps between time, place and character?
Paul: My approach to My Mother Said I Never Should is very much to treat it as a memory play. Memory as it relates to family is fascinating because our recollections of the same events in our own families differ so wildly. This is natural because our view is much more subjective than we think.
Signe: A play with multiple locations and a non linear storyline is a brilliant challenge because it needs a space that works for all locations with a minimum of scene changes in between, making sure the pace of the play remains. I have designed a set that aims to fully immerse the viewer in the world of the play, without distracting them from the story.
Q: So, where do you start?
Signe: Designers are responsible for the visual concept of a theatre production. I identify a design style for sets, locations, props and costumes, while working closely with Paul as well as the fantastic Johanna Town, our lighting designer. The process always starts by reading the play and having conversations with the director. I then sketch out ideas and build a model box in scale 1:25.
Helen: For costume, I use pointers from the script and conversations with Paul to draw designs for each of the characters. The designs show how we envisage the costume looking and is useful for the cast and team to work from. I oversee the sourcing and making of any costumes needed for the show. Once they have been finalised by the Paul and the team, I will enlist costume makers to begin any construction, and pass on the chosen material and designs to the makers who construct the costume using the designs and measurements given by the cast. The construction also has to take into account any quick changes that may occur, which have been mapped out by Paul and myself.
Q: What can audiences expect from this production of the play?
Paul: We've had tremendous fun finding a visual language - through lighting, sound & composition, movement and video - to fully embrace this more expressionistic language and we're really excited by what we've come up with. We have such a phenomenal creative team working on the show – in addition to Signe, Helen and Johanna, we also have composer Simon Slater and the Olivier Award winning video designer Tim Bird. I would expect quite a radical, contemporary and explosive version of the play and with no less of the emotional impact.
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