Designing the set for Dazzle!
Director's Dispatch No 3: by Chris Rafferty, Bowness on Solway
The sets for our shows have tended to become more elaborate over time. The guiding principle, however, is to make them as straightforward, affordable and effective as possible.
As in many schools, our hall is a multi-function space. This means set design must not compromise (for too long) normal day-to-day business.
The hall is hexagonal, which adds its own challenges.
To minimise disruption the set must be able to be installed quickly, with sufficient interest to create the right atmosphere, which for Dazzle! means conjuring up the seaside.
We have invested in a portable stage for our school productions. While not big, at 7m x 3m, it is just the right size for the hall.
With the stage in place, the maximum audience that can be housed in comfort is between 90 and 100.
The stage is fitted with safety rails, essential given the hexagonal shape of the hall. However, the rails provide a good fixing point for stage scenery.
We have erected metal rails and wooden battens high up on three sides, enabling us to hang rear-of-stage curtains and fabric to help create the set.
We don’t have a front-of-house curtain, or wings, so the cast are mostly visible throughout the show.
The Dazzle set
To achieve the effect of the fairground, the immediate thought was to have a Big Wheel as the main focal point.
This had a number of implications, not least how the dialogue between Fred and Poppy - as Fred climbs the wheel - can be delivered audibly.
Other items for the set include a Coconut Shy, as well as a “Test-your-strength” machine and a Candy Floss Stall.
As fairground tents tend to be striped colours, we found a suitable fabric (well-priced on ebay) to produce that effect.
We won’t use this right across the set, but interspersed with a combination of black stage curtains for the backdrop.
Hanging them is not high tec - they are simply attached to the wooden battens with drawing pins!
For the construction of the Big Wheel, I arranged a meeting with a local builder, who has been very helpful over a number of shows.
For cost-effective use of material, a decision was taken to have the wheel 2.4 metres in diameter.
Other plans for the wheel include attaching lights to enhance the fairground effect.
The Test-your-Strength machine is simply a rectangle of MDF which will be painted in school.
The Candy Floss stall is designed to allow Sarkky to drop off the stage near the end of the show into the Candy Floss bulk store.
This allows a quick unseen costume change, for her dramatic emergence when the villain is finally collared!
Director’s Dispatch 4: Four weeks to go
Director’s Dispatch 5: Counting down...
Director’s Dispatch 6: Surprise addition
Director’s Dispatch 7: Costumes
Director’s Dispatch 8: Dress rehearsal
Director’s Dispatch 9: Last night