Meall, Billy (6 of 8)  An Oral History of Theatre Design

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  • Recording date

    2006-06-16, 2006-09-11

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home, Liverpool

  • Interviewees

    Meall, Billy 1937- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 6: Becoming involved in short courses run by Rose Bruford College in Liverpool. Mention of David Gareth Jones Theatre. Description of teaching activities; theatre companies originating from the course; involvement with LP youth theatre; working with assistants and apprentices. Description of being employed to teach at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art [RADA] by Oliver Neville [ON]. Mention of Joe Orton; Jane Horrocks; library of George Bernard Shaw. Description of hands-on approach to teaching; Alice Purcell; her work for BM at the Half Moon Theatre [HMT]. Teaching facilities at RADA. Story about KC and sticky labels [0:10:55] Description of ‘Robin Hood and the Merriment Tendency’ [RMT]; designing RMT twice; designing other plays more than once. Story about transporting a coffin for a production of ‘Loot’. Reasons for commuting to London; feelings about London; visiting the British Museum; sourcing theatrical items in London; tea at Fortnum and Mason. Description of staging ‘Brick up the Mersey Tunnels’ [BMT] on a small budget; obtaining wigs; working with costume supervisor. Description of BMT. [0:19:06] Description of daughter becoming interested in theatre design; her involvement with the Everyman Youth Theatre; role in ‘Our Day Out’ by Willy Russell; her style and attitude. Collection of scale models; first night cards. Feelings about theatre design course at Nottingham Trent University attended by JM. Work after RADA; Bubble Theatre Company; HMT; ‘Dracula’ starring Daniel Day Lewis; ‘Charlie’s Last Round’ [CLR] at the Almeida Theatre [AT] to raise money for the theatre’s opening; cast including Bob Hoskins [BH], Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers and Stephen Rea. Description of CLR; special treatment by agent; networking. Story about designing gabardine stage costumes for The Stranglers. Story about visiting the pub where CLR was set. [0:30:22] Lack of results from agent; living in London; feelings about working in regional theatre rather than in London. Description of role at home while wife was studying. [0:31:44] Painting rather than designing at this time; list of actors associated with agent Sally Hope [SH]; Jim Broadbent; Phil Jackson. Involvement in left-wing theatre; finance and money. Story about BH giving BM money. Story about building set for CLR with working beer pumps. Description of AT charity evening; setting up of AT; haunting. Description of work with SH; Dennis Lyall seeing JM’s work. Feelings about Liverpool. Work undertaken during period of looking after the home; Brian Ford’s [BF] children; BF and John Lennon; further comments about BF; feelings about being a home maker. Story about interview for the job of scenic artist at LP; design work for Voxy Theatre Company; production of ‘Murder in the Alehouse’ at Ashworth Hospital. Approaching the design for small scale productions; Edinburgh Fringe Festival; staying in a caravan. Seeing plays in Liverpool; ‘The Tempest.’ ‘Fat Harold and the Last Twenty Six’ [FHL] by Alan Bleasdale.; difficulties of designing FHL. Overcoming a mental block; story about ‘I Know My Redeemer Liveth’ sung by Kathleen Ferrier. Mention of Patricia Routledge. Description of design for ‘When the Wind Blows’; use of lasers; lighting designer Michael Williams. Difficulties carrying out director’s ideas; trying to create stage illusions for director, CB; illusions used in ‘Dracula’. Feelings about problem-solving; prop-making solutions. [1:00:29] Solving staging requirements for BMT. Description of the best directors to work with; Bob Eaton [BE]. Difficult directors; ‘Stags and Hens’. Techniques for working with directors. Story about policeman’s costume for ‘Front Page’; breaking down uniforms. Story about breaking down builder’s costume for BMT; using substances that are now considered dangerous. Description of own design style. Story about Mark Rothko paintings recently seen at Tate Liverpool.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Billy Meall (????-), theatre designer.

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