Dody Nash, Set & Costume Designer (Swanhunter)

It’s 9pm and we are in the final three days of rehearsal before our ‘fit up’ and stage rehearsals in the Howard Assembly Room. My work on the design, which started last February, is nearly finished.

I have been in the Opera North building now for 12 hours. My day starts with a catch up with Clare (the director). Parts of the show are being made on different floors of the building, so I spend the day running between costume and prop makers, stage and production management, to keep an eye on the fabrication of the design and to see that it works in rehearsal. I use a 1:25 scale model and costume drawings to help me communicate the design with everyone. I also observe as much of the rehearsals as I can, to see if there are any improvements I can make to my work. The music is sounding wonderful and the singers are really enjoying themselves with Clare’s clever interpretation of the story –  it has lots of  movement and action! It’s a great atmosphere to work in and there is always lots of laughter to be heard coming from the rehearsal room.

Parcels arrive all the time. Today, fluorescent lights were delivered. Dirk (production manager) is seeing the touring venues this week, and it’s great to hear about the places Swanhunter will be visiting. Yesterday, I sat down with Chris (assistant director) to look at the proportions of the venues and make a few basic design decisions, such as the ‘setting line’ (the position the scenic floor is ‘set’ in relation to the front of the stage floor). On Friday, Simon (lighting designer) arrives and we will have our full creative team. It’s busy for me now, but next week will be even busier once we get into the theatre.

We have some very exciting scenery being made by our prop maker, Johnny. Big curved lumps of polystyrene covered with thick felt will represent snow. It plays an important part in the show. It was difficult to think of a scenic material for snow – felt is a great solution and I think the singers are going to enjoy walking on it in bare feet! Tonight, I am painting the Tower, which is where the Mother lives. It’s based on a photograph Clare found of a church in Arkhangelsk. I changed the shape and colour many times until I thought it looked simple and beautiful. Although main rehearsals ended at 5.30pm, I will wait until 9.30pm for cover rehearsals to end. Chris is rehearsing the singers who will perform if someone falls sick. Then I will paint until the early hours of the morning. I love painting scenery at night time when the theatre is empty. It’s really quiet. A great way to end the day after a long day of listening, thinking and making decisions.

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