Meall, Billy (5 of 8) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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Interviewee's home, Liverpool
Meall, Billy 1937- (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 5: Story about painting ‘Annie’ at LP designed by Lez Brotherston [LB]. Working on three weekly repertory theatre. Story about making a mask for ‘A Man For All Seasons’ staged in Liverpool Cathedral; turkey prop for ‘A Christmas Carol’; making a prop heart which had to beat. Work at Legoland; David Collis [DC]. Story about fight against redevelopment of LP after its closure; encouragement from architect, Joe Parker, to get involved; campaign to save LP; mention of support for this from Chris Bullock, Manager of the LP, then the Liverpool Empire; using the paint frame at the LP; painting the Liver Buildings many times; arrangements for using the paint frame; recent painting work. [0:21:47] Change from size paints to Rosco products from the United States; low prices when Rosco paints in the United Kingdom, putting British suppliers of pigment powders and pastes out of business; increasing price of Rosco paints; mention of Bristol paints; advantages of Rosco Supersaturated paints; new water soluble gloss paints from companies like Dulux; sustainability of size paints, which used natural pigments and ingredients. [0:24:38] Recent approach to painting collage of Liverpool skyline; painting onto un-seamed sky blue canvas; description of the stages of preparing and painting a canvas on the frame; removing the cloth without touching the floor. [0:29:40] ‘Lysistrata’ directed by Peter Hall at LP; painting over one hundred maps to be ripped up during each performance; painting a street map of New York with a paper section for an actor to burst through; being asked by Bill Kenwright to change a large portrait of Billy Fury so that he had perfect teeth; process of painting onto sharkstooth gauze. [0:35:57] Techniques in prop making; new materials; mouldable sheet material, now disused because it was carcinogenic; different materials used in mask making. [0:39:22] Working on a design by DC, who is also a scene painter; creating a lead effect for his ‘Dracula’ design using “spooning” technique; description of this process; remark about DC’s talent as a designer; creating rust effects; keeping reference materials; different kinds of rust; using natural sponges; noticing textures in the world; taking photos on phone camera; portfolio of references. Mention of getting a Japanese mask made using cane from the attic for assistant, George, to use in a workshop; working with him on a float for the Queen’s Jubilee; story about being asked to amend float featuring a pint of Guinness; portraits of Irish Nobel Prize-winning writers; checks by the Queen’s Equerrys; other meetings with royalty. [0:48:53] Shows painted for LB; painting a billboard with torn paper; copying it exactly; painting in monochrome. [0:51:16] Being asked by Richard Williams [RW] to design some plays at the LP including ‘I’m Marrying Robbie Fowler’ and ‘Cider With Rosie’; description of this design with a backcloth and two gauzes; working with RW; design for ‘Billy Liar’ with a collage; mention of printing fabrics for costumes. Being made redundant from LP when the theatre closed; final show, ‘The Wizard of Oz’; having time to then look after wife, who had been diagnosed with cancer. Previous closure of LP; not realising how much financial trouble the theatre was in; threat of redevelopment.
Life story interview with Billy Meall (????-), theatre designer.