Posts Tagged With: DRP

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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The revolving door spins no more.

Hello everybody!!

It’s been over two months since our last post and now at last, all the shows are up, the academic year is drawing to its close and we’ve got a massive blog to let you know what we’ve been up to.

Since you last heard from us we have built an amazing cast concrete effect set for the Opera double bill; we’ve curated, installed and hosted our annual 3rd Year Graduate Exhibition; slipped in a couple of paint calls, prop makes and fit ups for Opera scenes and Napoli Milionara in the Milton Court Studio Theatre.  Finally, with a massive push we managed to the fit up the phenomenal build for the end of year musical ‘Grand Hotel’. Just a bit busy then!

It’s been a real who’s who of materials and techniques this term right across our Construction, Painting and Props departments.

Construction have had the volume turned up to 11 this term working on the set for Grand Hotel; we’ve seen welding on an industrial scale to construct fully operational revolving doors and two huge frames to support the mirrored and glazed frontage of the Grand Hotel as viewed from the inside.

First thing out were the two metal frames for the frontage and interior of the hotel; box steel welded and then clad in timber and MDF. Once the frames had been constructed it was through to the Paint Shop for black gloss on the cladding and gold leaf on the fret work and window frame details.

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The Gold leaf we use is in fact brass leaf, it is applied directly from the roll onto surfaces coated with an adhesive called Gilding Size. The size is applied over a layer of yellow paint which hides any small holes in the leaf. Once the leaf is on and the size has dried, we brush off the excess leaf and apply two layers of french enamel varnish to seal it, and to achieve the antiqued effect the designer was looking for.

We’ve also been applying more black gloss effect to all the cladding, flats, panels, treads and handrails; you name it – we glossed it!

Before we could get anything fitted up in the Silk Street Theatre, we had to paint an intricate geometric floor design on the stage.

Our friends in the Technical Theatre department helped us out by rigging a projector on to a flying bar so we could project the design on to the stage and trace out the geometric pattern. The whole ellipse was first marbled in white before we marked on the lines for the masking. Thirty five rolls of masking tape later and we began to paint and marble the black tiles. Off with the masking tape the next day and finish the surface with a lovely glaze to create a beautiful marbled floor on to which the set could be installed.

Here’s the beautiful finished floor with a layer of Bona Mega gloss glaze over the marble painting. Amazing!

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We’ve seen the construction of a rotating concierge reception desk made from bendi-ply, a glorious curved and fanned Grand staircase, and seemingly never ending fret work to create art deco inspired hand rails for the various balconies and decorative elements which adorn the glazing and carefully disguised steel deck.

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All the glazing has also been dirtied down by spraying with a matt glaze with a bit of white paint mix in, adding to the slightly defunct look specified by the designer.

Props made three Belfast sinks on wheels complete with dressing room mirror lights.  We had some decorative brackets for the sinks laser cut by a CADCAM company in south London; CutLaserCut have a selection of industrial size laser cutters so we emailed over our design and they were put to work cutting 9mm MDF to make Art Deco style brackets…Laser Power!

End result is an absolutely epic set, I couldn’t wait to see the actors and musicians apply their magic and it certainly didn’t disappoint, it was a great show and a brilliant demonstration of the collaborative production process here at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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So there you have it, many weeks of hard work was certainly worth it looking at the amazing result. If you want to see a fascinating time lapse video of the set being taken to pieces you’re in luck! It’s quite a cathartic process destructing a set, the thing I find hardest to comprehend is that all those weeks of hard labour can be undone such a short time, about 12 hours. But that’s the way it goes I suppose. See the video courtesy of  the Technical Theatre department either on their blog or by clicking here.

We’re checking out of The Grand Hotel now;

The Props Department have realised a host of interesting and challenging creations this term. We’ve seen the creation of a prosthetic body parts including the frighteningly realistic torso of St. John the Baptist in its unfortunate de-limbed, decapitated and disembolwled state – so goes the brutal end for St. John in the Stradella opera. Our props students have also served an apprenticeship of sorts in coopering, deconstructing Scottish whisky barrels and recreating a fake barrel mid construction which allowed the opera singers to simulate the construction of the barrel during the performance of Arne’s The Cooper. Sound complicated? It is! See Pat’s Blog for a full run down.

Any finally, to round up this academic years activity, our annual first year Puppet Project!

Our first years have just presented their end of year project. The theme for this years project was the Grim tale of Hansel & Gretel set in an urban landscape, conceived as: HSNL + GRTL

The project kicked off with a crash course in puppetry with puppetry guru Steve Tiplady who gave a half day crash course in making and operating puppets.

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The first years then spent a week creating their puppets and taking crash courses in lighting and video editing from our lighting and video lecturers, then it was into the studio, out on location and finally many hours in the editing suite to create their fantastic version of the folk story, great work guys.

That’s it from us until September so enjoy your summer and we’ll see you on the other side.

I’ll leave you with the video of the first years puppet project HSNL + GRTL, enjoy!





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DRP 2013

For those of you who didn’t make it down to the workshops last week for this year’s Pompeii inspired DRP…and for those of you who did but loved it so much you want to see it again…here it is…

Here’s a photo of Vanessa’s original model box and the final set.  I always love seeing how good the set looks next to the model box, didn’t the first year students do well?

And here are some close up photos showing some of the props and the water feature as well the annual group photo on set! Well done everyone it looks fantastic!

Well that’s it for this year, come back and visit in 2014 for more photos, videos and posts all about the wonderful world of design realisation at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.  We’ve had over 25,000 views of the blog in 102 countries so thanks for reading, and sharing!

Merry Christmas and a very happy new year to you and yours…Abi

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Paintshop goes Pompeii…

Every year in the design realisation department, at the end of the winter term, our first year students take over the workshops and create what has been nicknamed the DRP- the Design Realisation Project.  This project is aimed at showcasing the skills and knowledge that the students have acquired during their first term here at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama; in prop making, scenic construction and scenic art.  Each year the project is designed by a different staff member in design realisation (last year is was prop’s lecturer Pat and this year Vanessa has designed a Pompeii inspired project which our first year students have been working hard on for the last few weeks. 

The students were lucky enough to visit the Pompeii exhibition recently which helped spark inspiration and provided valuable contextual information to feed into the project.  Coupled with Vanessa’s design, the team have been hard at work in all three of workshops here in the technical theatre department preparing for the showing tomorrow.  Here are some shots of the DRP in progress…

To see the finished article, head down to the design realisation workshops tomorrow between 12:00 and 15:30.  There will be a small exhibition showing how the DRP was created in the props workshop with the set itself in the paintshop.  There will also be students from the leadership pathway of the Guildhall Artist Masters programme improvising music alongside the piece at intervals from 1.10pm to 2.10pm.  Everyone welcome, come down and take a look…

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What happens in Vegas…

Well all that hard work over the last few weeks has paid off as the first year design realisation students presented their DRP this afternoon in the paintshop.  The project, which showcases all of the skills the first years have learnt in their first term at the Guildhall School, was designed this year by Pat, our props lecturer with the very glitzy theme of Las Vegas!

The audience pass the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign and view the scene as if standing in a Las Vegas hotel room, complete with marbled floor, wallpaper panelled walls and mood-setting paintings.  Looking out of the imaginary glass doors onto the fine marbled balcony and out at the Las Vegas skyline complete with bright lights, moving images and neon signs disappearing into the horizon…

Here you can see Pat’s 1:25 scale model and the full sized set under lighting.  It’s clear that everyone has worked really hard on the project and what a spectacle it is…well done everyone!

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Viva Las Vegas!

Things are starting to take shape in the design realisation workshops as the scenic art paintshop is slowly transformed into an oasis of bright colours and even brighter lights.  Small pieces of scenery have morphed into large flats that dominate the space, piles of neatly stacked steel deck have been bolted together to form a stage and bit by bit the design realisation project is edging closer to completion ahead of the official unveiling and viewing on Monday afternoon. 


The last two days have been a bit busy to say the least, here’s what we’ve done…

 The Welcome to Las Vegas cloth has been injected with colours as ultraviolet paints have been sprayed onto it to create a glowing effect that under blacklights is sure to look mesmerising. 


The plain green flattage that make up two walls of a Las Vegas hotel room have been finished with wallpaper panels and mouldings.  All of the mouldings have been nailed in place with mitres cut on the ends that join so that when the two flats are put together they create a neat and seamless join- as you would expect in a fine Las Vegas hotel room!


The balcony has been assembled and fixed in place and the marble floor has been laid ready to have the rug put down next week.  The walls have been sprayed into to give them a bit more life and to make the room look more realistic and ‘lived-in’ and pictures now adorn the walls.  The next step is to start populating the rest of painshop with the hotels and the Las Vegas skyline so the finishing touches of glitter and sparkle are being added.


Interesting in seeing more? Fancy a trip to Las Vegas and back in your tea break on Monday? Staff and students at the Guildhall School are welcome to come down and take a look at our fabulous DRP project next Monday, the 26th from 3:30. 

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Calling all leaders of technical theatre courses and directors of youth theatre groups…

Come and take a tour around our amazing facilities, meet the technical theatre staff and see our Design Realisation Porject in all its splendour in our very own our design realisation workshops!

Open Eveneing

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More pieces of the puzzle…

 Looking around the design realisation workshops yesterday it’s clear to see that our first years have mastered the art of multi-tasking…a skill that is needed nearly every day when working in design realisation and one which will be very useful when working in the industry! No sooner have I taken a picture of a prop or a piece of scenery being worked on, by the time I’ve posted them on here the prop has moved on about three stages in its process and a new task has been started. 


In the morning, Anna finished her marbled floor by adding her veins and a cream glaze whilst Giulia continued working on her artwork (you’ll see where this goes later in the week!). 

 Meanwhile in the props workshop, things are starting to take shape and get very colourful indeed.  Pieces of glitter fabric embellish what used to be dull MDF and bright colours adorn almost every surface.  Here, Kim, Jasmine and Jess are all working hard, I can’t wait to see the finished articles!


Back in the scenic art workshop, the girls are working on their second cloth for the DRP…there’s no keeping it a secret anymore…


Vanessa showed the girls how to project the Las Vegas image onto the cloth to scale it up to the right size and Giulia, Jasmine, Anna and Clare get to work drawing up the sign in chalk and begin blocking in the image in white paint.  You thought the night sky cloth was colourful? You’ve seen nothing yet…

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Can you guess what it is yet?

Week 11 kicks off at a speedy pace today with all of the design realisation workshops whirring with the sound of machinery, the steady hum of the paint bridge moving up and down…and the odd Christmas song sneaking its way onto the radio.  Christmas might be just around the corner but there’s another event in the design realisation calendar that holds more charm than good old St Nick at the moment; the Design Realisation Project, lovingly known as the DRP…

 This year’s DRP is designed by Pat Shammon, our Props Lecturer and is aimed at giving the 1st year design realisation students a small scale (yet equally big!) design to fully realise.  The project means the students need to draw on the skills that they have learnt this term as well as learning a lot of new techniques and processes. 

 As is tradition with the DRP, we are keeping the entirety of the design a secret for now, although it will inevitably leak out before the big unveiling I’m sure.  Good job it’s only a week away then so we don’t have to hold our tongues for long…

 One element of this year’s DRP is a beautiful night sky. 

Kim, Sophie and Clare have been working very hard on their first scenic cloth; stretching the canvas onto the paint frame, priming the canvas, accurately marking out the horizon and the lines of lights and finally using fine paintbrushes and spray guns to achieve the finished effect.  It looks stunning not only under normal lighting but, because it’s painted in ultraviolet paint, it really comes to life when lit by a black light!

Another theme of the DRP is marble.  Both Anna and Giulia have been learning about marbling techniques this week which involves building up layers of paint and glazes.  They’ve been forming a textured foundation using scrunched up plastic bags and sweeps of paint, creating swirls of movement by ‘puddling’ watery paint onto this base and adding detail by finely veining onto the top surface, all topped off with a rich coat of gloss glaze to bring add shine and bring out the feeling of depth and realism.  Anna is working on the floor section and Giulia is focussing on the balcony, both of which are completely different but utilise a similar set of skills. 


So you’ve seen the sky cloth and the marble…any ideas what our DRP could be this year? One thing is certain; it’s going to be spectacular! Keep an eye out for more photos this week…

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