How do a choreographer and designer work together on a set design?
The choices the choreographer or director makes about the time period and country that the production will be set in dictate the design brief. The designer then develops this brief into a set of drawings that the wardrobe team can interpret.
There is a great deal of creativity involved throughout the whole design process to realise the design vision and to make sure the costumes are robust and fit for purpose.
The questions that the design and production team may need to ask are:
What is the time period of the production?
What were the fashions of that period?
How do these fashions influence the designs?
How can the designs be created - is it possible to buy costumes or will the costumes need to be tailor made?
How will the designs work with the movements the dancers are performing?
What is the budget for the costumes and set?
What are the sizes and specification of the venues that the production will tour to?
How will the set and costumes pack into sizes and weights that can easily tour?
Within the set design, the era and its themes are expressed through the use of colour and documentary footage, The same Italian street in the three different eras is projected onto the backdrop throughout the production. For example (click on an image to enlarge):
Romeo & Juliet colour
ACT I - Black and white, hints of the rising power of Mussolini and images of disaster reflect the era and act a warning of what is to come.
ACT II - Sepia, the optimistic post war period. A feeling of hope and love mirrors the feeling of Romeo and Juliet when they are newly married.
ACT III – Colour footage of television soaps and politicians expressing the ugliness of contemporary world.
Interesting fact: designer Tatyana van Walsum walked the streets of Rome for inspiration, and the backdrop is taken from one of her photographs of the Mausoleum building.
Think like the designer
Look at the film of Juliet’s entrance in Act I and discuss how the design, set costume and lighting create and enhance the drama that is unfolding on the stage.
The production of Romeo and Juliet is famous for the iconic balcony scene. An important element of the set design was incorporating ladders that were flown in and out of the stage. The ladders were solid or covered in various materials and were used to create indoor and outdoor spaces as well as creating shape within the design.
How you would design a balcony for your production of Romeo and Juliet?
Watch video: Scottish Ballet Production Manager Tim Palmer talks about the set design for Romeo and Juliet.
Using the questions in the design process as starting point, develop a detailed design brief for a ballet production of Romeo and Juliet. Include your research as a journal in order to demonstrate clear choices that have influenced and informed your design brief.
Using the theme of conflict, choose two characters from Romeo and Juliet. Analyse and comment on the designs of their costumes throughout the production and how they are represented on the website and in marketing materials. Refer to historical and cultural influences in the designs and speculate on how the characters are represented through the use of design and what that design achieves.
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