No rest for the wicked!

It has been the most hectic and exhausting few weeks of the term and in fact year, which means it must be time for a musical!! It is now the day after the opening night and it has been an intense process.

The design for On the 21st Century consists of a beautiful art deco train carriage as the centre piece. The build itself has been a challenge! Having only 2 weeks from the start of construction to fit up has pushed our students to the edge…they have however donned their war paint and thrown themselves into the battle head first.

The first construction task was to construct the art deco portals for the stage. These were constructed with a timer frame and cladded with skin ply before attaching the vac form art deco pattern on top.

To the untrained eye this looks like a relatively simple task right?… would be wrong!…..The challenge here?…getting the patterns to match. Lets just say there were more than a few incidences of people holding their breaths and counting to ten. Fortunately our students are great problem solvers and managed to make the patterns appear to flow seamlessly across the portals.

The portals were then taken through to the paintshop to be turned gold! First they had to be covered with covent garden primer to allow the paint to stick to the plastic, they were then given a coat of antique gold paint and sponged on top with lemon gold.


Scenic art had the big challenge of the back cloth. The cloth itself was a 6 x 15m canvas which needed to be painted to represent the map of the journey from Chicago to New York

The canvas was primed with yellow ochre and then the design was projected onto the cloth, traced and masked off before the rest of the canvass was painted black. The extra elements of the design were laid on top to complete the piece.


Despite the challenge Sunny led the scenic art team effectively and the backdrop was completed relatively painlessly. (Just a few soar biceps).

Our props team, led by Imelda, have been making a series of art deco chandeliers. The main shape of the pieces have been constructed from MDF whilst the patterned sections were created by making the embossed pattern onto a piece of timber and using that to create a number of vacuum formed copies which could then be easily applied to the walls of the chandelier with contact glue.


To finish the chandeliers off they were edged with a silver lace trim (you can just see it hanging in the background of the image) which looks really effective when lit!

The interior walls of the train carriage were next on the construction teams list. The team, led by Jonathan,  created the main structure out of MDF which was then clad with 6mm MDF. The challenge here being the rounded corners to the partitions. The curves were created by heating up the mdf with a heat gun and bending it to give us the soft curves we wanted.


The seating booths were upholstered by our props team. Imelda, Lana and Alena covered the chairs in this plush, purple, velvet fabric and finished them off with gold trimming.

( It’s all very decadent!)

Back in construction Oscar has been busy making the carriage entrance door. It was then given the gold treatment by our scenic artists before being set on stage.



The canvas frames required for the set were constructed with mortise and tendon joins. This was because they were to be displayed from the back and therefore we wanted the finish to be neat and tidy. To create the aged finish required we covered the timber and fabric in a raw umber wash and flicked a thicker mix on the canvass after to give the impression of old paint splatter and stains.


The final piece of the set to make was the face of the train! We had to simplify the train front due to time pressure but the compromise didn’t make it any less of a feature! The piece was constructed as a flat and clad with MDF. The front was embellished with MDF trim to add detail.

The face of the train was edged with rivets to develop its industrial style. We then cut the numbers out on the bandsaw and fixed the number plate to the front.


The face was also given the gold treatment to match the rest of the train and the recesses received a good old raw umber wash to exaggerate the depth. The lights were inserted which really brought it alive onstage!


Final paint call….the last big push for our scenic art students before the set was finished was to paint the diamond pattern Adam had designed, onto the carpet. This was achieved in several stages. Firstly the carpet was primed with covent garden primer this helps to seal the pile and also reduces the amount of paint absorbed by the carpet. The diamond pattern was drawn up on tracing paper and transferred onto the carpet by pouncing over the pattern and rubbing charcoal through the perforated lines. This gave us an outline of the pattern to follow which we then masked over before applying the paint.


The set was left to dry…

…and by some miracle, It was all done!!!




I have to say what a fantastic job our students have done. It has been a really tough build but it looks absolutely beautiful. SO proud of them all!

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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One thought on “No rest for the wicked!

  1. Barry Ife

    Congratulations to all who worked on this set. It is brilliant – one of the best we have done. Barry Ife

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