Connellan, Patrick (8 of 9) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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2007-09-20, 2007-11-30, 2008-01-11, 2008-02-15
Interviewee’s Home, Coventry
Connellan, Patrick 1961- (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 8: Being focussed on work to the detriment of other things, including relationship with FT; move to Hither Green; fondness for South East London; Edwardian house with original features; location near River Quaggy and park; renovations. [0:04:07] Birth of first son in 1991; mention of FT’s work with David Thacker at this time; difficulties in relationship; birth of son, Ruaridh [RC]; FT’s difficulties during he year after son was born. [0:09:48] Costume design as a significant part of the designer’s job; learning about different periods of history through costume; costume drawing; storyboarding; not drawing set; collaborating with actors on modern costume; reasons that a costume design should be a technical drawing rather than a piece of art; time spent costume drawing. Description of costume drawing process; working from photographs and paintings; different preconceptions point for model making and costume design; reasons for starting by drawing the head; researching actors in Spotlight; general attitude of actors towards costume; relationship between actors and designers. [0:18:32] Politics of the fitting room; having the opportunity to talk to actors in fittings; timescale for producing costumes; working with freelance costume cutters; relationship with costume supervisor; different levels of collaboration with the costume supervisor; importance of clear communication in fittings; working well with most supervisors; PC’s nickname “Picky Pat”. [0:25:43] The need to be obsessed with work as a theatre designer; changing definition of success as a theatre designer; Royal Shakespeare Company [RSC] ethos; importance of sticking to your guns and building self-belief; FT’s ability to get her own way at the RSC. [0:28:52] FT’s success when she returned to work after maternity leave; her brilliant design for ‘Death of a Salesman’; lack of professional competition between PC and FT; Arthur Miller plays and the naturalistic approach to theatre design in America; FT’s work for the RSC; end of her collaboration with DT; mention that she worked with Anthony Clark; decline in work offered to FT; arbitrary way in which directors choose designers. FT’s teaching at the Central School of Speech and Drama [CSSD]; good income from this; approach at CSSD; difficulties with childcare; end of relationship with FT; feeling grateful for FT’s influence on PC. [0:37:40] Continuing to work all over the UK; mention of work at the RSC, BR and Hampstead Theatre [HT], where PV mainly worked on new writing. Meeting Sarah [Sarah Burton] [SB], a scenic artist, via BE at the BC; difficulty of continuing to live with FT for several months after separating; weekend in Dublin when SB was unwell; finding a flat in South East London to be near son; good relationship between FT and SB. Drinking too much at this time; feelings about this. Work at the NV with Gwenda Hughes; move to Coventry; buying a new house; reasons for living in the Midlands; offer of Resident Designer post at the Belgrade; travelling to spend time with son at weekends. [0:48:29] 1990s political climate; fall of the Berlin Wall; involvement with Lewisham Branch of SWP; invitation to editorial board of the Socialist Review magazine; mention of meetings at Paul Foot’s house; writing for the magazine; difficulty of being involved on a consistent basis because of freelance work. [0:54:13] Importance of having political beliefs in common; close friends Jan Nielson and Paul Holborow; change in feelings about politics of friends; left-leaning tendencies of people in theatre. Friends including AC and Sean O’Callaghan [SO], an actor who was in ‘Soldiers Three’ at the NV; death of his partner; not staying in touch with childhood friends; reasons for not attending school reunions; throwing self into aspects of life including fatherhood. [1:03:40] Beginning to feel jaded about work; wanting to direct as well as design; laying the groundwork for plays as a designer; spending time in the rehearsal room; becoming Head of Design at BC; preferring the title Associate Artist; flexible contract with BC. Continuing freelance work during period after BE left BC; mention of working with AC and Mark Babych [MB] at Bolton Octagon Theatre; first meeting MB; earliest work with MB including ‘Phil & Jill & Jill & Phil’ at Worcester Swan Theatre and ‘Silas Marner’ at BC; difficulties with actors; MB’s success at choosing plays. Becoming involved with design for second auditorium and renovations at BC; brief for studio space; problems with flexible spaces; researching studio theatres; consulting BC staff and network of theatre companies in Coventry; choosing theatre consultants and architects along with BC Capital Development Committee and Project Manager, David Bayliss; experience of being involved with this; working with architects and buildings. New Artistic Director, Hamish Glen [HG]; giving up the idea of being resident designer at BC but continuing to see through the building scheme; handing in notice to HG; job losses after HG took over. Designing HG’s first production, ‘The Rink’; feelings about this musical; set design. [1:24:34] Continuing with freelance work; mention of move to current house; community; feelings about living in Coventry. SB’s current work in children’s touring theatre. Birth of Declan [DC] on Christmas Day, 2002; difficult delivery; trauma following this; Catrin, born in 2006; feeling happy today; spending more time caring for children; feelings about design and career. [1:30:36] New brief for second auditorium at BC; decision to no longer be involved; description of design that PC had helped to develop; HG’s reasons for changing this; disadvantages of bleacher seating; name of rehearsal room. [1:35:38] Plays directed by PC at BC; working with Jane Hytch on a series of new plays in the BC proscenium arch theatre, which was decked out to give the feel of a studio theatre; working on ‘This Lime Tree Bower’ [TLTB] by Conor McPherson; his style of writing in monologues; contributing to the direction of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ prior to this; description of the design for this production. Working with actors on TLTB; taking this production to the Edinburgh Festival; casting; finding three very different actors for TLTB; rehearsal period; feelings on first day of rehearsals; advantages of designing as well as directing the play; becoming less apologetic about work; advice from SL. Plans for future career as a designer and as a director; seeing more theatre and promoting self as a director; recently directing ‘Popcorn’ and ‘Abigail’s Party’ [AP]; reasons for casting SO; being clear and honest with actors; approach to blocking plays; wanting to work on more challenging plays; success of AP; considering other jobs. Feelings on the first night of plays PC has directed; feelings about first nights in general; things that have gone wrong on first nights, including mechanism for a bed canopy in ‘The Atheist’s Tragedy’; problems with revolving stages.
Life story interview with Patrick Connellan (1961-), theatre designer.