Blog is back for a Cunning Christmas

Hello world! Would you believe it?! Already the jolly season is with us and we are thus far blogless… No excuses I’m afraid other than being ear deep in set making and Design Realising, nonetheless; here comes the blog…

It’s been a very interesting term so far with two productions going out on the main stage at Silk Street: The Cunning Peasant and Her Naked Skin. While two more productions: True Dare Kiss and South Downs/The Browning Version – a double bill, were climbing the treads over at our Milton Court Studio Theatre. This blog is a quick run down of what went on during the build for The Cunning Peasant by Dvořák.

In the workshops it was a polystyrene skills fest bonanza as the team set to realising the darkly imagined Tudor timber framed Burton-esque vision of Thomas Hardy’s Essex as designed by Francis O’Connor.

First port of call on the build was – as it so often is – the construction of mass flattage. On this occasion steel frame flats were the order of the day, clad with 4mm ply to provide a base on to which we can glue polystyrene sheets which could then be carved into the herringbone brick infill. Strips of MDF cladding were fixed on top of the polystyrene to create a timber frame appearance synonymous with Tudor Period buildings.

Once the polystryrene had been marked up with the brick formation it was out with the kitchen knives and flat head screwdrivers to carve out the mortar lines and apply plenty of distressing to the edges of the ‘bricks’ adding to the realism. After this we use heat guns to consolidate the carved surface by slightly melt the surface of the poly before finally applying that ubiquitous flexible coating medium – Idenden; which provides a textured surface ready for painting.

Another element of the design which provided a great opportunity to hone our poly carving skills were the plentiful roof tiles. Each tile was cut from 8’ x 4’ sheets of foil covered insulation board, more often found insulating the walls and ceilings of buildings but as always we’re making use of everyday materials in innovative ways. So, the foil was peeled off and the edges of each tile distressed a little with the kitchen knives to look like slate, and once again the Idenden goes on prior to final paint effects, spatter, dry brushing and washes and voilà, roof tiles!!

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Some elements of the design were sky high and this called for some heavy industrial metal processing; time for our monster Ring Rolling machine to be rolled out so we could curve some huge sections of steel tubing. All of our best remembered geometry and GCSE mathematics knowledge were dragged up from the depths and it was best sohcahtoa’s forward to employ some marvelous numeric wizardry and where that didn’t work we bent it a bit more until it did fit!

Our Ring Rolling machine is able to create large or tight curves in anything from light to heavy gauge steel, in square section, flat bar, rod and tube. This section of the design was to be flown above the stage, yet appear to be a continuation of the curved walls, in order to provide enough strength across the span of this section we used 3mm wall mild steel scaffold tubing – which is a demonstration the power of this Ring Rolling machine. The curves were carefully calculated and welded together before extra sections were added creating a branch like structure, on to which more roof tiles were T-nailed into place to create a kind of deconstructing blown away house morphing in to a tree effect, as I perceived it, for me it was a rich and conceptual design which was both interesting and functional in drawing attention to the whole space.

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Two movable houses were also part of the build, one made from wooden flats and the other house from welded steel, as the 1st storey had to be fully functioning as a 1st floor. Both were mounted on wheeled trucks and both required more poly carving and of course roof tiles! End result; two extremely des-res, well-appointed – if a little compact, mock Tudor properties in a prime location in Central London. Not sure we can afford the rent on those, maybe we could use them as halls of residence for our new first years…

Speaking of whom….

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of our new first years who have thus far been inducted into the beginning of their technical theatre education. After spending the first few weeks sampling various areas of our cross discipline faculty we threw then head first into a major build for their self-led Design Realisation Project! Results were stunning BUT… I’m giving nothing away until January, when a full run down with photographic evidence will take the form of our first blog of 2015, that’s right I said it 2015! Ouch!

See you then blogland

Design Realisation

 

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