Continuing on our journey back through the archives of creativity and inspiration at the Lyric, here's Ciaran Bagnall explaining his set and lighting design for A Streetcar Named Desire. #LyricCreate
What was your starting point in the design process?
I always start with a detailed excavation of the script. A page by page exploration of where, what, when? What does the playwright tell us? What do the characters tell us? What do they need? Is there an emphasis on a particular mood? How can the design amplify this mood?
What was your initial concept for your set design?
Tennessee writes about light like no other writer I know. He literally writes about it and the effect of it into his characters, not only as a location or time indicator but also as a deeply emotional device. Visually relying on the quality of the light to tell the story. So Emma and I began the whole design journey with a discussion on light. How does the colour of light make dramatic sense to each particular scene. How does the light change throughout the play? So I began to design a dynamic space that would use light to it’s advantage.
Light takes on symbolic significance in A Streetcar Named Desire, how will this be illustrated in your lighting design?
The Lighting Design within Streetcar is extremely symbolic. More than any “normal” use of lighting within a theatre production it will provide us with a very powerful sense of emotion and importantly the intensity of the heat. The types of lanterns, the colour and the angle of each lantern will be carefully thought out and each moment meticulously and precisely designed to amplify the power of script.
William’s gives extremely detailed stage directions – did you find this helpful or restricting when planning your designs?
It’s always a balancing act when it comes to any element of design. It is your role as a designer to tell the story in the most effective and efficient way possible. I found the stage directions really useful as a vehicle into William’s mind outside of the text but as with all “rules” or directions we need to know when to obey them or break them!
What challenges did you face when planning your design for this piece?
A physical and very real challenge that faces all designers within Theatre is budget. It would be very easy to produce an extraordinary detailed design for Streetcar but the bottom line is “can we afford it?” and if not what do we cut? What is the bare minimum we need? I’m a huge fan of efficiency. I find a budget in most cases a good thing. It clears the mind of elements you simply don’t need. Finding what you DO need is the journey and challenge.
Can you describe the creative process between Director and Designer?
Emma and I have worked together for many years. As creative partners we communicate now in a detailed short hand and we understand each other and trust each other. This for me is the most important element of any relationship or partnership - trust. Emma and I begin with the script and over the course of a number of months we’ll exchange reference images, thoughts, pieces of music, anything that allows us to portray an emotion or slice of an idea for the play. We work closely with the Production Manager and other staff members at the Lyric to come up with a strong and quality design that serves the play and provides the cast with a play ground to tell the story.
Ciaran Bagnall, A Streetcar Named Desire (2019)