In late October I set off on a three month design trip to Berlin, supported by the Rockend Berlin New Music Opera Award. During my stay, I spent two months at the Komische Oper Berlin. I worked as a Design Assistant on London based theatre company 1927’s latest production Petrushka/L’Enfant et les Sortileges.
1927’s work combines eclectic animated projections with live action and silent movie-style performance. As you can imagine, this type of work can only be achieved through extensive collaboration, a process which I found extremely helpful to observe and participate in. At the heart of 1927’s collaboration was excellent communication and a willingness to take on board the ideas of performers and the production team. It was clear that 1927’s inclusive, non hierarchical attitude had a huge impact on everyone involved in the show. People were completely invested and were willing to go that extra mile to help create something really spectacular.
The rehearsal room was an exciting place and as an assistant I found myself flung into all sorts of unexpected roles. During lighting tests I was strapped into a harness on a tiny ledge, three and half metres off the ground, I jumped into roles when performers weren’t around and moved set pieces on and off the stage, in time with the music and projections. When new props were requested during a rehearsal, I was given the job of making them. When set pieces needed a particular scenic art finish in the style of the animations, I’d grab the paint brush. As a Design Assistant in a major opera house, it’s not particularly common to be thrown into a harness or to re-paint a large set piece, but having said that, I found these experiences to be so much fun and really helpful. Painting props and set pieces allowed me to develop a stronger vocabulary of scenic art. Stepping into a role or being strapped to a harness is helpful in understanding the stage from a performers perspective.
1927's double bill, Petrushka/L’Enfant et les Sortileges opened at the Komische Oper
Berlin on January 28, 2017. Image by Iko Freese.
For those who saw Godface or HalfWorld, I’m sure it’s obvious that I enjoy creating puppets. I’ve always loved the challenge of balancing artistry and functionality, although the process of making a puppet for the stage does require many hours of work. During my time with 1927, Paul Barritt, the mastermind behind the company’s incredible animations, invited me to assist him with his work, using stop motion animation to bring intricate 2D puppets to life. This technique introduced me to a completely different way of using puppetry. Through the use of animation the possibilities of these little puppets were endless and might I add, they took only a few hours to make!
Over the last three months, I’ve grown so much as a designer and I look forward to seeing the ways this experience influences my work with Matriark. And look, who knows, I might even give animation a go. I’m rather intrigued!