In June CCW was represented by three researchers at the 2015 Prague Quadrennial. Abigail Hammond, BA Theatre & Screen: Costume Design Course Leader at Wimbledon, was featured in the UK’s national exhibition. Peter Farley, BA Theatre & Screen: Theatre Design Senior Lecturer, was one of the curators of the student section of the UK’s exhibition. And CCW Professor Jane Collins, and Co-Editor Professor Arnold Aronson of Columbia University, launched the inaugural issue of the the new Routledge journal, Theatre and Performance Design.
Hammond told us about her costume design for RIOT Offspring that was featured in the exhibition. ‘As a costume designer with over 25 years experience of working in contemporary dance,one of the key attractions of working on RIOT Offspring was the performers, ranging from babies with their young mothers to the Company of Elders (92 was the eldest), with children, teenagers and young ‘emerging artists’ in between.
In addition, there was Sadler’s Wells commitment to professional production values for community based work, and finally that there were five choreographers contributing. This necessitated a sharing of ideas, not just one person’s vision, reflecting the values in some of the positive responses to the riots in London and the UK in August 2011; in contrast to the riots the Rite of Spring ballet incited over 100 years ago.
This job required precision and organisation. There were numerous costume changes, progressing from colour to all white; mass shopping for 100 dancers, with 5 different group “looks” and speed fittings. Above all, the costumes had to meet with the approval of the performers to support their sharing of imagination and experiences.
From a research perspective, I am always looking at how each design commission I undertake is unique. Every project fundamentally draws on the same skills and creative processes that I have employed and developed over the years, but it is the combination of all the other constituent parts that leads to surprising challenges to be resolved with those skills and processes. This was my largest cast, most varied range of performers, most epic and defining piece (everyone has to “do” The Rite of Spring once!) , most choreographic contributors in addition to a creative director to collaborate with, combined with a small budget and short production period. I think it becomes less about the process of how I resolve the problems that intrigues me but identifying and analysing what they are when they arise.’
Farley worked with students from across the UK to create The View From Here, an installation which required its visitors to remove their shoes, fill out a ‘landing card’ and hand over a personal item to the ‘border guards’. To create the work, ’15 extraordinary proposals from 30 students representing their colleagues from over 20 UK institutions formed the bedrock of a three-day residency held in January 2015 at Nottingham Trent University to coincide with Make / Believe, the [Society for British Theatre Designer’s] national open exhibition.
We grouped existing concepts together and made new ones.
We explored Britishness, foreignness, shared space and politics in all their complexity.
We got stuck and we became unstuck.
We talked and wrote more than we drew and made but it was always the drawing, making and physically re-ordering in the real space that ultimately took us another step forward…’
The launch of Theatre and Performance Design was held on Monday 22 June at the Colloredo-Mansfeld Palace, Prague. This internationally peer-reviewed journal critically evaluates the effect of scenography on the aesthetics and politics of performance, and facilitates dialogue amongst practitioners, scholars, and audience. In addition to peer-reviewed articles and visual essays the journal engages with the practicalities of construction and production by considering the impact of new materials, techniques, and technologies on the process and realisation of the performance event. With a number of the journal’s Associate Editors and Editorial Board at the event, Collins and Aronson made short speeches and raised a toast to many more issues of the journal.
Top image by Lorie Novak