Graduate Exhibition 2016

Join us once again for this years show of work by our graduating third year students.

It’s shaping up to be a real mega-mix of pieces of constructed set, props, lighting installations, projection mapping, scenic art, props, costume and any number of other wonders.  All taking place right here, at The Guildhall School’s in the Milton Court Studio Theatre.

Hope to see you there..

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Model box Project

It is that time of year again where we get to present the work of our first year DR students  from our model box project.
Our students were given different texts that they had to read, research and create a set for. The aim of the project is to give the students a chance to explore the process of developing a play into a theatre set and whilst the projects primary focus isn’t on design, the students are encouraged to research and be imaginative in their approach to their designs. The main focus of the course is to develop their model making skills and through this project they are introduced to different model making techniques, materials and resources and encouraged to be experimental in their approach to the text.

This year our students developed the following…

Maddie was given the play, ‘ Journey’s End,’  which is set in a British dugout, near Saint Quentin in France, towards the end of the First World War. The play covers the three or so days leading up to the real-life events of ‘Operation Michael’.

Maddie chose to stay true to what a dugout might look like as a way of commemorating the hundred years anniversary of the First World War.

She wanted her design and model to look like it had been plucked straight from under the French soil. As a way of ensuring that sight lines weren’t being blocked  by the roof of her set. Maddie chose to raise the ground level of her set, placing it on what would be a steel deck platform, to ensure that the audience members views wouldn’t be obstructed.

Here are some of Maddie’s development images.


Final Model…

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Alana’s play was Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Alana chose to have both the bedroom and living room on display simultaneously and managed this by designing a platform on top of which the bedroom would be leaving the rest of the stage below and around the platform for the living area. Alana made some very nice and intricate prices of naturalistic furniture to dress the set which contrasted nicely with the honeycomb backdrop which was designed to reflect the compound vision of a fly.

Final Model…



Anna was given the text, ‘Bright and Bold Designs,’ by Peter Whelan and was set in a pottery paintshop in the 1930s. Anna took inspiration from well known pottery designers of the time, including Clarice Cliff and Suzie Cooper.


This is what gave her the abstract colours as well as the angular lines of her set, which she intended to look like broken pottery.


Final model…



Alexandra had Alan Bennet’s, ‘The Madness of Kind George III.’

The play explores King George III struggle with the fact that he, despite being king is still only human and in some ways just as vulnerable as everyone else. He is “treated” by multiple doctors, but the medical knowledge at the time leads to the kings health being worsen further, as they try to tread him with blood letting and blistering.

The play takes place in many different locations so Alex decided to keep the basic structure quite simple and adaptable for each scene. A central staircase is mentioned frequently in the play, so Alex decided to include it in my design very early. Alex was keen to work with distressed wall textures and try to create something that reflected the intense pain and chaos that would have been going on in the King’s mind. She explored this idea by looking at how she could contort patterns and shapes for the wallpaper to reflect the Kings hallucinations.

Sketch Modelling…

Final Model…

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Sustainability in action

Here in Design Realisation we are making a constant effort to be mindful of how we dispose of our waste. Reducing the amount we waste and reusing or recycling where we can. Recently we have been making an effort to donate materials which we no longer have use for to people / places in the community.

In January we were able to donate a load of surplus paint we had in scenic art from our production of, ‘The Secret Rapture,’ to a local school for use in their art classes. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School were very happy to receive our donation and planned to use the paint on theatre productions which they put on in the school year.


In April we were able to donate some large wooden planks that were left over from our production of, ‘The Rape of Lucretia,’ to a local adventure playground. Lumpy Hill playground is run by the Islington Play Association. This is a charity which strives to provide play areas to children who would otherwise have very limited access to outside space. The playground gives local children the opportunity to explore the outdoors by playing on in their amazing adventure playground structures, planting vegetables and building bonfires. The playground depends on donations and the staff are in the process of trying to build an additional platform for the playground and so they were very happy to receive the wood we had to offer!


We are keen to keep these donations going and I will try to keep you updated with future donations we make and how they are used, so look out for future updates.


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Head first into the summer opera double bill.

The workshops are in full swing and beginning to fill with the pieces of our opera double bill. Arianne and Alexandre Bis has our students working on realising the designs of Simon Corder.

Here is a snapshot of the samples produced by scenic art for the set. We have three main finishes that need to be produced for this set. We have a yellow marble finish, a painted number grid and a white-washed concrete finish. Here are the samples that were put together for Simon to look at.



Construction have been busy building all the necessary flats to make up the walls of the set and treads for the show and with the help of our TT students, who are with us for their associated studies, we seem to be making good progress.

Construction have also had the pleasure of realising one of the more decorative features of the set. Alice, Lana and Oscar under the instruction of Andy were able to have a bit of fun in creating the Baroque style fireplace.

The main frame was made from timber which was clad with ply to give us the basic shape. The edges of the frame were decorated by laying a border of a thick plaster mix and then shaped with a purpose made jig to give the edge shape you see below.

the larger decorative mouldings were made by pouring plaster into vac formed moulds and the attaching these to the timber frame. The The mouldings were strengthened by laying hessian into the plaster.

Andy also sculpted some extensions with clay to finish off sections of pattern too fit and align with the size and shape of the piece. A mould was made of these clay sculpts which was them cast to create a finished plaster section.

The pieces were then screwed onto the main frame using the supports that had been set into them.

The joins were then filled and moulded by hand to give the impression it was one fluid piece.


The piece was then ready for a paint job. Our second year student Lana and I finished the piece by applying a marble paint effect.



Our scenic art students began their process by texturing the flats. This was done by covering them with a thin layer of idenden which gave the surface a rough concrete texture. They were then painted white and a raw umber wash applied to the bottom sections.


In props our students have been busy constructing miniature models of  the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur which will sit on plinths around the walls of the set.They have been using mainly styrofoam to construct the models and some of the final details will be drawn in CAD and 3D printed.

Emily did a great job at gilding the large picture frame to give a degraded finish. This prop piece will sit above the fireplace.


Props have also had the opportunity to work on some polycarving. In front of the fireplace is to be placed a decorative peacock fire gate. Sneha with the help of Anna carved the peacock from blocks of polystyrene. This was then covered with layers of foamcoat to help smooth the surface before being painted in metallics.


Alongside preparing the opera set, we have had students from other areas of technical theatre creating work for either a personal project or getting stuck in with assisting on the construction of the Alexandre Bis set.

Here are some example of the work going on amongst our associated studies students.

Fit Up….


Fit up for the opera went relatively smoothly. It began by constructing the steel deck truck onto which the set was attached. The walls and treads went in first, followed by the windows and balcony.


Once the set was attached to the truck we had to attach some breaks to it. However…we didn’t have any rubber fixed to the breaks we had… so we improvised…

…Worked a treat!


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End of term trio

It has been a steady few weeks with injections of hysteria as we have been working on the three sets over the spring term in Design Realisation.

We have been preparing our Silk Street stage for ‘Go Make you Ready,’ Designed by Mark Simmons.  This was a vast and open set divided into an indoor/outdoor space with a strong contrast of colour and texture.

The Cloth

The main challenge of the set was taken on by our scenic art students Becca and Claudia who were led by our third year Sneha. The task was to paint two cloths at 8m x 4.5m and 8m x 3m with a dense forest scene inspired by the painting, ‘A Stag Hunt in a Forest’ by Jan Hackaert and Nicholaes Berchem, to hang up-stage, left of the set.

A Stag Hunt in  a Forest. Oil on canvas by Jan Hackaert and Nicholaes Berchem. 1660


Here you can see the cloth being worked on in it’s various stages. The shapes of the trees were traced onto the cloth by projecting the artists image onto it and tracing round the trees in charcoal. The darker background tones were then blocked in and then the lighter shades were painted on top in stages to give the illusion of a 3D image.

The Floor

The stage itself was on a raised steel deck platform and was covered 2/3 in laminate flooring and 1/3 in painted carpet tiles. The carpet tiles (of which there were about 300) were individually primed with Covent Garden primer to prevent the paint from rubbing off and painted using a stencil. This took a big group effort to finish  but was effective once laid all together onstage.


Up-stage right consisted of a large steel frame which was constructed by our 2nd year student Lana and was clad in plywood in order to provide a screen to project on during the show.



Prospero’s Staff

In props Hellen had the task of creating Prospero’s staff  which she did by drawing the shape in Sketch-up and 3D printing it. Then she created a mould out of Latex and cast the shape in crystal clear resin. The final piece had to be sanded and polished to give it a smooth cut glass look. The staff needed to be made as a break-away prop. This was done by sawing the cue in half and inserting a dowel into one end and drilling a hole to insert the dowel in the other half. This way the staff could be snapped along this seam each performance and reset by inserting a new dowel into the socket.

White LEDs were placed under the end of the crystal to make the staff glow which made for an effective looking practical prop.


Once the set was fitted up there were a few tweaks to make before the show went up. We put an extra wash on the forest cloth to bring the bushes into shadow a little more and there was a little dulling down of the yellow crosses on carpet tiles. Overall it was a job well done.


Alongside this our scenic art students were also preparing a cloth for the set of ‘Guns and Drums’ designed by our own third year student Sunny Smith. This piece was to be the floor cloth and was designed to look like a birds eye view of war trenches.

The organic waving lines were traced onto the cloth using a projected image from the model. The lines were then painted onto the cloth and finally washes were then applied to break up and blend the background colour with the red and blue lines.

Our spring term Opera Scenes set was designed my another of our third year students Alena, who’s design resembled an abandoned industrial space. The main structure consisted of a platform and a ramp which the actors were to slide down and was made by Vincent, Ollie, and Lana. The set was dressed with a selection of found items which our trusty Tom Downing scoured around London in junk yards to find. Superhero!

These items were then given various paint treatments to enhance their rust and to break down the surfaces.

The set had a great grungy industrial feel and was very effective onstage. Well done to everyone!

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Making a meadow


Over the past couple of weeks our props department have been lending their hand to a little gardening….

For our spring opera, ‘The Rape of Lucretia,’ the design partly consists of a cemetery amongst a meadow of wild flowers which our props department, led by our third year student Jonathan Gilmer, have had the challenge of creating.
The meadow was made up in sections each piece consisting of a plywood base covered in a layer of artificial grass.



Sourcing the plants…

In order to obtain the variety of flowers needed to make our wild meadow, plants were sourced from a variety of places. New Covent Garden market provided us with a great range of artificial plant, grasses and wild flowers.


We were also able to make good use of the dead and dry plants from the Tower Hamlets Park Cemetery.  Across the cemetery we were able to harvest a range of dried thistles and wild flowers which we brought back to the workshop and painted back to life. These have worked remarkably well amongst the other artificial plants and have really helped to bring the entire piece together.



The stems were painted back to a forest green and we added the pink/purple colour to the thistles by mixing some paint with sawdust, and crumbling it over the dried flower heads and painted the purple onto the buds for the other dried plants.

Our props department have worked tremendously hard planting all the pieces into the bases. This was done by drilling holes for each individual stem and fixing it into place. Some grasses were added in short strips to fill out the gaps and help to create a variety of texture.


 Some close ups of our revived plants in the meadow



completed sections


The final result has been very effective and well received by the designer. So a great job all round!


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Full speed ahead into the New Year


As the first blog of 2016, I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year and welcome you to an exciting peek at what we’ve have been getting our teeth into in Design Realisation.

The start of the new term has given our DR students three shows to work on, which means their hands have been full and the workshops bustling but they have produced some great work.

The first to go up was combination of two drama’s ‘Pinter’ and ‘Dealers Choice.’ The set, designed by Amelia Jane-Hankin, had to adapt to both pieces of drama and is a simple yet effective, uniformed structure made up of wood panelled columns and flooring.


In construction our students prepared the frames fro the columns by making each side as a separate flat which were then screwed together to make the cuboid structures. Plywood was then cut to size on the wall saw and used to clad the sides of the columns.

Sam took the ‘assassins’ approach to the task at hand.


In scenic art the team painted the ply cladding with a smokey brown woodgrain effect and highlighted areas using a dry brush effect in a lighter grey.

The floorboards were given a woodgrain treatment in two shades of brown, a wash was then applied on top to blend and finally they were glazed over.


Alongside work on the Studio Theatre drama, our DR students were also preparing and beginning work on our Milton Court drama, ‘Top Girls.’ The design, by Dora Schweitzer, includes a collection of wonderfully distorted and somewhat frightening drawn and sculpted figures of women and children.

Scenic art have had their hands full with this one; the first task being to attack the large back cloth. The design featured several sketchy figurative drawings of women which were to be drawn in pastels and oil bars onto a black cloth.

Our scenic artists began by producing several samples from the references that had been given by the designer. The drawings were mainly created with a white chalky outline and then had highlighted elements and shading added in a selection of yellow, red and orange hues.

Once the designer was happy with the samples it was time to start work on the cloth.

Once the images were traced out onto the cloth using the projector, the students were able to work on individual figures to build up the collective figurative piece.

In addition to the back cloth the design included several sets of tables and chairs which all requires a heavy paint treatment. They started their life as white ikea dining sets and were transformed to look like dark, heavily rusted metal. This effect was achieved in a variety of stages.

Firstly the table frames and chairs had to be sealed with transparent polish and covent garden primer to allow the paint to stick to the metal and plastic. They were then primed with a mix of black and blue/grey paint. Sections of silver foil wrap were glued to small areas and the excess peeled off, to give metallic highlights and pieces of bogus paper were stuck to the table tops to create some texture. After this all the surfaces were given a rusty orange and blue sponge wash and once this had dried then the painters were able to go over elements of the chairs and tables adding more detailed and saturated rust colours before glazing over them to seal the paint treatment.

The results were pretty impressive…


Our students in props also had their hands full making a number of dummies that were to be flown in over the set.

These were made by pasting brown paper with glue around a foam figurine, cutting the dried paper shell away from the figure and filling inside with two part expandable foam to make the figures solid. Armature wire was then inserted into the bodies to create joints to enable the figures to be manipulated into different positions.



No comment…  :-/

The props department then added hands and facial features using armature wire and mod-rock and the figures were painted and clothed ready to be placed in the set.


The last of the trio of shows is the Opera which this term is, ‘The Rape of Lucretia.’

The design, by Jamie Vartan, resembles that of a war trench which has required scenic art to create a ‘mud’ floor which covers the stage. This was achieved by covering sheets of MDF with a layer of idenden and working into the texture. The texture around the edges of the floor were enhanced by mixing the idenden with foam crumbs and layering that onto the MDF.

Once dried the floor was then painted.

The set is surrounded by a timber border which is made up of the largest lumps of wood I’ve ever seen! Getting these into the building took an act of God!….Or perhaps just an incredible team effort!

These along with the treads made by construction are all in the process of being treated with a paint wash before they are glazed.


Props is probably the busiest department with regards to work on the opera. As part of the final scene there is a dramatic reveal of a graveyard complete with 1 million white crucifix’s and a blooming meadow. Lana and Jonathan have been working hard to create these pieces using a combination of artificial turf and dried shrubbery which they are painting to resemble wild flowering plants. As the plants have to be harvested as part of the Opera, each plant stem had to have a hole drilled into the plywood base under the turf for it to be planted in and harvested from. This was no quick job!

As opera fit up approaches, our DR students are making the finishing touches to the set. I would usually be saying there’s a frantic rush or final push to get everything finished but there is actually a rather calm and relaxed atmosphere circulating the workshop… I’m expecting there to be a huge panic next week when we realise we forgot to build that life size carousel!


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Kalf’s Kitchen

This years DRP project has been designed by our head of construction Andy. Andy set our first years the task of recreating a still life painting by, 17th century artist,  Willem Kalf. The painting depicts a kitchen interior and was one of many pieces he did on the same subject matter between 1640 and 1646. The actual size of the painting is only 25.1cm x 21.3cm which is incredible when you look at the detail within it.


Our first years had a short introduction and research period at the beginning of the project and were able to use this time to experiment with materials and create samples for the finishes they were hoping to incorporate into the set.

The first years were able to make an early start on constructing the flats which made up the walls of the kitchen and the coal bunker. This part of the project gave them a great opportunity to put into practise the scenic construction techniques they have been taught during their first term on the course and develop their construction skills.


It was then time to apply texture…

Using their samples as a reference, the group was able to transfer the textures onto the flats and floor of the set. They used a mixture of idenden, artex and sawdust mix in order to replicate the textures found in the Kalf painting.

Once the set had been textured it was time to get painting! Kalf’s painting is mainly made up of different tones and hues of brown and creams and has a very earthy feel to it so it was important that this was captured within the set. The brief also required the students to consider how Kalf captured light in his painting and to transfer this into the set.

Alongside the construction of the walls and floor of the set there were a variety of furniture pieces and objects in the painting which needed to be made. These were divided up among our first year students, giving them each there own props to create and an opportunity to experiment with some prop making techniques.

Here is how they got on….

Model of shallow tub


Libby created the shape of the tub by fixing together timber pieces with screws and resin. The bands were made with rubber tubing and pieces of rope which were stuck to the rubber with hot glue and sealed using copydex. The whole thing was then covered with idenden to add texture.


Model of bucking tub


Alana constructed her prop from timber pieces that she had cut to size and shaped. The structure was screwed and glued together. The bands were then made using the same method as Libby and attached using contact adhesive. The prop was also covered in idenden and primed before applying a final paint finish.


Model of Jug



Madison carved the shape of the jug out of polystyrene on the lathe. the shape was then sanded down and then covered in foamcoat to give it a smoother texture before painting.


Model of candlestick


Alex turning the candlestick shape on the wood lathe. This was then sanded and covered in a couple of coats of varnish.


Model of pewter jug

IMG_1792George sculpting the jug out of clay to prepare a shape to cast from.


Model Piece of Green Bowl


Anna produced the bowl through Polycarving. She then coated the shape in foam coat and primed it before applying the final green finish.


The cupboard was constructed from plywood and mdf . This was then textured and received a number of paint treatments to achieve the required wood grain effect. The door was made with thin pieces of timber which were laid, in a criss-cross fashion, over a template of the door and glued and stapled into place.

Painting the cloths…


Once all the individual elements of the set were made the remaining task was to blend everything together. To achieve this the set was treated with  raw umber washes to darken the edges and blend the different wood finishes. The props were then all dressed into the set according to the placement of the items in the painting.

To finish the piece off our first year Technical Theatre students Etienne and Katie added some wonderful lighting to the set by rigging them off our paint bridge which really added some drama to the set.

The finished set…




A great job by our first years!

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Autumn Drama!

This years autumn drama is a production of Frank Wedekind’s ‘ Lulu,’ and has presented our students with an interesting set design from Agnes Treplin to realise.


The most prominent element of the design is the expansive, panelled wood flooring, which spreads over 5 levels of steel deck across our stage. Our construction students, under the management of Imelda and Jen had the task of erecting the steel deck platforms, making sets of treads to allow access to each of the 5 levels and cutting the MDF floor boards and facia to size in order for scenic art to begin the wood graining process. The required a lot of organisation from construction, as to the untrained eye all the planks and panels looked virtually identical. Thankfully our construction team managed to keep on top of the task!


Scenic Art

There were three different types of wood finishes to achieve over the MDF boards from construction and also the custom cut parquet flooring which was ordered in. This required a lot of work for scenic art but was well managed by Helen and brilliantly executed by our second year students Lana and Constance. The paint shop, however, looked like it had developed a wood grain rash, consuming it entirely!

The finished result looks really effective on stage.

Agnes’ design also involved large figurative images of Lulu herself .  The challenge of this task was to translate several photographs of the characters from the drama into an  Egon Schiele inspired painting. Two of the pictures were painted onto canvas and a selection were painted onto acetate in layers and projected onto a screen at the pack of the stage.



Props were given the task of creating a series of chairs for the set. The raw wooden frames were bought in and our students had to stain and polish the wood and were guided through the tricky process of upholstering, allowing them to create chairs to match the designers specifications. Alena, Oscar and Abi have done a great job and managed to produce really nice pieces of furniture which look really effective on set!

Several of our students have also begun work on their personal projects. Here are a few images of their progress.

Sneha’s cloth painting

Constance’s portrait and Lana’s ‘grisialle’

…and Rosie’s Jukebox!!

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Final push for fit up!

We are in fit up period now and the pressure is on in DR. Everyone is exhausting their last remaining pockets of energy to push the final pieces of the set out. The hard work is proving worthwhile as the set is looking amazing!

The walls have all been installed on stage now and so we can see the spaces coming together which is always a rewarding moment.

fit up 1 fit up bedroom fit up man cave revolve castors

The 4th picture shows how the two revolving walls have been placed on castors to allow them to run smoothly along the floor and glide past each other to reveal the different spaces of the set.

There were a few hairy moments when installing and testing the revolve and a few adjustments had to be made but the kinks have been ironed out and much to everyone’s relief…the revolve works!!…

1 2 3 4

5 6

In scenic art the last large stencil piece to be completed was for the removable kitchen walls. The walls are made from a double layered, corrugated plastic which makes them very light weight and ideal for the scene change. These like the other walls in the set had to be primed before painting and glazed to complete the job. It was a huge team effort and required all the pasting tables in the building but we got there and they look great up.

kitchen stenciling1kitchen walls onstage

Our scenic artists are now spending the final part of the week working on the individual art pieces for the rooms in the set.

scenic art paintings

In construction the main task at the moment is completing the kitchen units which are constructed as two steel trucks and clad in MDF to allow them to be easily moved during the scene changes.

kitchen1 kitchen2   the beginings of a kitchen

Props has been busy finishing off the circular sofa for the man cave and building the bar. The bar itself has been partly made up of an old reception desk which was built for a previous show and has been extended and adapted for use in the opera. It has been a big project with difficulties along the way but our second year student Becca has done a great job so far and is now in the stages of painting the panels.

bar1 bar get its base coat

Welcoming our first years to DR!

In other news I must welcome our new recruits to Design Realisation. Our first years have been with us for a few weeks now and have had a selection of sessions with us, introducing the different areas of DR. Here’s a peak at some of the things they have been working on.

IMG_0316IMG_0310   IMG_0309IMG_0311

One of their sessions involved exploring the, ‘science of bridge making!’ Guided by the mad hatter himself, lecturer Edd, the students were asked to create a load bearing bridge from basic materials and then they had to test them out with weights (M10 bolts) to see which one held the most.

Our first years have also been introduced to wood graining and texturing in scenic art where they were taught how to produce a wooden panelled effect with paint and also how to recreate elements of exterior brickwork and concrete areas. In props they have had sessions sculpting in clay and producing plaster moulds and have had a go at polycarving. Here are some of the final pieces.

SA texture2  SA texture1

clay and plaster mouldsIMG_1677

Hope you’re enjoying the course so far!

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