The Visual World of dreamplay.
Exploring co-design with Naomi Kuyck-Cohen.
dreamplay, was a departure for us. A co-design between Naomi Kuyck-Cohen (who specialises in set and costume design) and me, Joshua Gadsby (who specialises in lighting design). We both have a professional background in devised theatre works, movement works and performance art. We were keen to see the impact of removing boundaries in the design process, could the visual language become more visceral and playful?
Naomi and I were really drawn to BAZ’s mission to bring theatre that holds a playful core. Theatre that coerces the audience to have a direct relationship with the action unfolding. It’s a delightful provocation for design.
Our work on dreamplay begun around 4 months ago, the journey from page to stage was
somewhat unique, a classic text used as a framework for a contemporary response which formed a script, which was then used as a basis for play and exploration in the rehearsal room. We are both very process driven designers that thrive on interrogation and response to the source material (the play, the movement, the image) and this production offered a fantastic opportunity to go on a journey of interrogation with director Sarah Bedi. Strindberg’s ‘A dream play’ is a mammoth of a text, almost endless in it’s vivid and changing imagery. Sarah’s interpretation was no different, spanning the vast width and breadth of human suffering. We set about interrogating every image of human suffering within the play, picking apart and looking for common and universal images that could provide a visual language. Being sure not to give too much, as this is not a production seeking to give answers.
After many a site visit, it was clear that the Vaults architecture would become a very looming presence within the play. Trains rumble above, as each new room is architecturally more obscure than the last. Drowning the space in design was the last thing we wanted, we needed a language
of simplicity and directness that allowed the audiences to connect with performers, not just watch them. Ultimately, the cavernous, characterful and sometimes absurd Vaults became the springboard for what our dreamscape looked like. We embraced it, it became the floored context
that often inhabits our dreams. A bedroom appears in what is almost certainly not a domestic
space, a plastic greasy spoon table and chair set sit in on a bare theatre stage and a mystical cellist appears high up in a frame, It’s the unexplainable stuff of dreams. Spacial forms are broken, remade and broken again. dreamplay really does inhabit the vaults.
There is nothing quite as terrifying as entering the first day of rehearsals with only a white card model box (usually the design is completed and locked down at this point) and a notion of what some of the spatial dynamics will be, but this led to a flexibility and playfulness that meant that we
could keep focus on the energy and boldness of the company. Often fleeting and exciting creative discoveries in the rehearsal room are also enabled as a result, a vast and decaying mirror…possibly the most absurd and unexpected image that has come of dreamplay came late in the process, something magical was captured in the rehearsal room and so it became part of our world in the Vaults.
No good ever comes of committing too early. Trust in the process, trust in the playfulness and stay open.