Connellan, Patrick (4 of 9)  An Oral History of Theatre Design

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  • Recording date

    2007-09-20, 2007-11-30, 2008-01-11, 2008-02-15

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee’s Home, Coventry

  • Interviewees

    Connellan, Patrick 1961- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 4: Singing in a punk band during sixth form with David Strawn [DS]; James Blueitt [JB] and “Bebop Ben” [BB] who played the drums; dissipation of the band; song writing; DS’s role in the band; his subsequent career at the BBC; friction in the band; feelings about treatment of JS; rehearsals at DS’s house; noise; problems at gigs; reports in newspapers about the band; name of the band, The Deadbeats; stage costumes; BB’s success in a rockabilly band called Restless; mention of continuing to wear a rockabilly or teddy boy style of dress since this time. Song titles; teenage subject matter; political themes; influence of The Clash on the band; PC’s preference for The Damned. [0:09:16] Feelings about art foundation course initially; art school building; equipment; the adjoining Ipswich Museum; second year at ISA; continuing to pursue interest in theatre lighting at Essex University theatre. Story about visit to see David Mattman, Head of Design at the newly-built Wolsey Theatre [WT]; his invitation for PC to come and assist with painting at the theatre; meeting Fran Thompson [FT] for the first time on that occasion, then Associate Designer at WT; first impression of FT; mention of subsequent relationship. Painting instead of doing coursework; moving to Ipswich and renting a room in the house where FT lived; working at Bogart’s nightclub; relationship with punk barmaid. Being required to stay for an extra year at college; starting a relationship with FT; doing more work in theatre mainly painting; friends at college including Alison Bolton; mention of being thrown off the course; applying to theatre design courses; positive influence of FT. [0:20:18] Disastrous interviews at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Nottingham Trent University; interview at Croydon College [CC]; mention that there were very few Theatre Design courses at the time; focus of CC course; conditions of grant from Suffolk Council; FT’s design career; mention that she had moved to live with her sister in Wimbledon; reasons for not moving in with her at this time and living with Aunt Gunval in Crystal Palace whilst attending CC instead; others staying at Gunval’s her house including a Norwegian theatre design student on the Motley Theatre Design Course; mention that he died of AIDS; not living the student life whilst at CC. [0:25:23] First day at CC; Sue Adams who ran the course; mention of being in the last year of the three-year Diploma course; interest in props and costume amongst the group; Ian Trow who went on to be a good friend; his appearance; tedious aspects of the course in the first year. Moving in with FT in Wimbledon; visiting her in Southampton; meeting real theatre people and helping out there; becoming more interested in carpentry; type of plays that the Nuffield Theatre was presenting at the time. Reconnecting with friends from the band who were at Sussex University in Brighton; feelings about seaside towns; house; being introduced to politics; reading Socialist Worker newspaper; reasons for initially being resistant to joining the Socialist Workers Party [SWP]. [0:37:03] Further comments about course at CC; projects including ‘The Tempest’; not knowing how to go about designing; later realisations about beginning with ideas rather than in the model; feelings about naturalism; being influenced by working with FT; SA’s comments when FT came to help with his graduate exhibition; scenic art course and tutor, John Turney. [0:41:19] Joining SWP in Croydon; trying to build a group in college; mention of joining in around 1983; attending mass picket of Eddie Shah’s print works in Warrington; reasons for the dispute; joining branch of SWP in Brixton; arriving in Warrington by coach; violence. Description of being arrested and spending time in a Police cell; returning home via Manchester on buses provided by the National Graphical Association and Society of Graphical and Allied Trades. FT’s views on PC’s politics; mention that she joined the SWP for a while during the miners’ strike; mention that she was Head of Design at Watford Palace Theatre at this time. [0:50:13] [Pause] Setting up SWP groups in Croydon and at CC coinciding with the miners’ strike; becoming known for this around college; PC’s rockabilly style at this time including a gravity-defying quiff; Billy the barber in Colchester; shopping for American style 1950s clothes at Robot on the King’s Road; silk trousers, shirts, American-style brothel creepers and custom-made leather jacket based on a photo of James Dean; evolving towards and English Teddy Boy look; having jacket made in Brighton; mention that sister probably has it; being recognisable in college; combing hair often; using Black & White Pluko Hair Dressing Pomade; mention of using Brylcreem instead now [0:53:58] Visiting pits during the miners’ strike; feelings about meeting miners; becoming involved in Socialist politics at a difficult time; SWP’s realistic view of this period; emphasis on reading and ideology; format of SWP meetings; influence of this period on PC. Different kinds of SWP meetings; other strikes at the time, including British Telecom; hearing from striking workers; becoming friendly with comedian, Mark Steel, at Croydon SWP; going to a gig in Liverpool with him. Story about organising a meeting at CC with visiting miners. Parents’ opinion of PC’s politics; mention of going on Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament [CND] demonstrations with mother; parents’ feelings about the Labour Party.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Patrick Connellan (1961-), theatre designer.

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