If I can get it to Saudi Arabia…

by Cathy Cross | 1 September 2015

we are always being influenced by each other

All art has a stimulus, a starting point, an idea made flesh. Whether it’s an oil painting, a ceramic pot, a photograph or a piece of script. We know that inspiration and influence is around us in so many ways. Whether we research specific ideas or make connections randomly we are always being influenced by each other. There are examples in history of artists working on the stage – Picasso, Pollock, Dali – but stage design is seen as a separate art form than that of a visual artist. For me I think the difference between a set designer and a visual artist is that its role is to help communicate information visually. To take an audience on a journey and to create a dynamic, interesting space for the director and performers to move in and around.

Theatre designers are great at telling stories. The recent poppy installation at the Tower of London was a deliberately simple idea. To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One there would be 888 246 ceramic red poppies gradually planted until 11th November. Each represented one British or colonial life lost. By the end there would be a sea of red. Then they would disappear. The concept of the poppies flowing out and over a wall was designed by theatre designer Tom Piper. Both the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic games opening and closing ceremonies were led by British theatre designers, with thousands of designers and theatre practitioners taking part in the events.

I’m a theatre designer trained in set design, costume, props, scene painting, mask making, puppetry – the usual stuff – but what I really am is a storyteller.

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