Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Raining Dragons and Trolls

One of our Dragons

One of my 'day jobs' is working on Prism Arts Studio Theatre project and we are about to start touring our latest production 'Raining Dragons and Trolls' which is linked to the national Family Arts Festival. We will be performing in a variety of venues, including Keswick's Theatre by the Lake, and we are all really excited about the tour. Since we began Studio Theatre back in 2012 we have come a long way and I never cease to be impressed by the ideas, work and commitment that the group shows.

Initial designs

Developing characters with drawing

Set design ideas

Our starting point for this production was the BBC 10 Pieces, ten pieces of classical music selected to encourage and inspire creative responses. The project was mainly aimed at schools but we thought it would be an interesting starting point and this proved to be the case. From the music a story grew, we use a lot of drawing to help develop our ideas and it is often not until very near the end of the production process that we have anything solid written up.

Mecamecal (mechanical camel)


A lot of things change over the course of making a production, characters come and go (sadly, the mecamecal or mechanical camel did not make the grade this show) story lines change and evolve but eventually a piece of theatre emerges. The constant changing can be difficult for some people but overall it is a positive thing, keeping the group inspired and fired up and allowing new and better ideas to come through.

Felt making: in our productions we use a wide range of techniques and materials. 

Felt making

This production has a strong environmental message, something we all feel very strongly about and which is an important issue. Although there are a lot of fantasy elements in our productions (dragons, trolls, a friendly minotaur) the story is very much about humans and how we interact with each other and the world around us. The main characters in the show have to convince people that unless they change their ways and live in a more sustainable way the world will be in serious trouble.

Making prayer flags for one of the scenes

Prayer flags

I work on the backstage elements of the show, the drawings, props, scenery and costumes. Theatre Skills runs two days a week, one day being focused on production (the day I lead) and the other day focused on performance (led by Vicki Maxfield.) Obviously the performance day leads what we make on the production day but there is a constant flow of ideas back and forth, the two days are very much connected.

We make and use a lot of puppets. Here are the Trolls!

And two mini dragons in a boat

And one of the main dragons (detail)
And we use a lot of shadow puppetry as well

One of my favourite pieces that we have made for this performance is the Sea Guardians cloak. In the story the sea guardian has become trapped in discarded plastic waste and fishing nets and in struggling to escape he is creating huge waves and terrifying the fisherman. To represent the waste he is trapped in we used my favourite technique of crocheting and melting plastic bags to create a large net like cloak that the actor wears. We added further strings of crocheted plastic to give a really tangled up look and add movement. I think this piece of costume works really well and I'm looking forward to seeing it in action.

The Sea Guardians Rubbish Cloak

Crocheted cellophane

Melted plastic

I'm not going to write any more about the production but I hope that if you're near where we're performing you will come and see us and be transported to another world!

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