‘A multi-functional, flat-pack, interactive set - that can fit in a school hall or a 400 seat theatre’ is the usual (very broad) brief we give our set-designer, Simon Hall, at the start of each project. Thankfully he doesn’t ever flinch and is a joy to work with. Simon has created the sets for children’s theatre shows for many years with his own company, Quirk. Therefore he is fantastic at giving us suggestions at how to create a set which will spark children’s imaginations and, crucially, not fall apart.
For this project, we added the extra challenge of asking him to come up with a set would help transport our audience back 80 years from 2019 to 1939. No easy task, but Simon has once again exceeded expectations and come up with a design which I think will look beautiful and excite all the children with its hidden extras. Simon’s design has been influenced by the Art Deco movement. Popular in the 20s and 30s, it’s long, geometric designs immediately take you back to the Jazz age and darker years of the financial crash in the 1930s. The movement emerged as a celebration of technology and the advancement of the manufacturing process after WWI - the furniture which was created was sleek and well made, with lots of vertical designs and symmetrical patterns. Through the 1940s styles changed and our story will span many years, but we want to pivot our story around that one point in 1939 where Clare Hollingworth broke the news of the German invasion. The simplicity in Art Deco design makes it an attractive choice for our set as it will give us the opportunity to use each piece in lots of different ways. There will be three main pieces - a folding screen, piano cover and a hat stand. Each piece will be lovingly crafted by Simon up in his workshop in the woods on the edge of Exeter. Once they’re done, we’re going to take the set into the Primary schools we’re working with. We want to give the children the chance to explore the possibilities Simon’s design gives us. No doubt they will come up with hundreds of ideas of what you can use each set piece for. We’ll take these ideas back into the rehearsal room with us and create the show around the set. Then, come August we’ll pack it up into our van and unload it in libraries, churches, theatres and museums for our tour of Clare Hollingworth & the Scoop of the Century. For a couple of hours throughout the Summer and Autumn, each of these venues will be taken back in time to the 3rd September 1939, when Britain declared war of Germany.