Set often ends up unnoticed in theatrical productions. For the inexperienced theatre-goer, set’s often ignored and unappreciated. As I’ve developed my knowledge and understanding of theatre, I’ve come to appreciate all aspects of it. STC’s recent productions of Endgame and Jumpy, both used set, lighting and sound to establish the mood, and enhance the actor’s performance. The set of STC’s Jumpy was unique. (The work of Set Designer Michael Hankin and Director Pamela Rabe).
The walls were a minimalist wood and I was initially confused to the entrance/ exit point of the actors. As the show began, it was clear that the precisely choreographed walls opened and closed as needed.
I was very impressed by the method of changing scene. Somehow the floor spun, like a record player, allowing the stage to spin- changing set and therefore scene. I loved this. The set sparked a change in scene, not the other way round- as is the norm. The play’s protagonist, comic genius Jane Turner (Kath and Kim), played with the humour of the set by reacting every time the set moved.
Every time the set began to spin, (often with her ON the set) she’d stare at it as if unsure what was going on. This was hilarious and became a recurring joke with the audience- an experience you can’t get in television.
While Jumpy’s set/surrounds gave us some hints, Endgame delighted in hiding all contextual details. In Jumpy, the audience gained context through upbeat soundtrack emitting feminist tunes and the metaphorical toy monkey. In Endgame, however, Director Andrew Upton and Set/ Lighting Designer Nick Schlieper made the decision to keep the set as elusive as Beckett’s writing. By hiding their set from view (with curtains) until the opening moment, they’ve denied us the chance to decipher what is going on- as is Beckett’s intentions in most of his plays, it seems.
The play opened with a bang as the curtains flew up and the eerie cylindrical set was revealed. Tall and dark, with pale windows shining onto the dank set, it was around 7 metres high and overwhelming.The uncomfortable mood was heightened by the simple sound of a dripping tap.
(NB- It was good that the set was interesting, because there was little else to look at for the next 20 minutes of Clov’s introduction).
Endgame’s impressive set established the uncomfortable and claustrophobic mood of the production (A post-apocalyptic world with no other survivors).
Set, Lighting and Sound Design massively contribute to the mood of a production as they allow the actors and audience to ‘escape’ into the world of the play.