Robin Peoples shares his insight into designing Romeo and Juliet for the Lyric Theatre 2023 production
From the outset of our discussions, Philip was clear in his plan to envision the Houses of Capulet and Montague as rival haute couture fashion houses, possibly with fringe connections of somewhat unsavoury aspect. This immediately informed the idea of placing the action and the lives of the characters in contemporary Italy. The built environment which they inhabit, however, much as one encounters today in the beautiful city and town centres of Verona, Lucca, Siena, Todi, or Corinaldo, is one which has existed for centuries, often from the creative vitality of the Italian Renaissance; and this venerable architectural vibrancy is animated by the vivacity of contemporary Italian life. Thus Philip, Gillian and I arrived at our production visual concept of the juxtaposition of contemporary costuming within the context of a time-mellowed setting.
Referencing the period of the Italian Renaissance – which incidentally has a neat and pleasing serendipitous connection with the original period of the play – I have taken motifs and perceptions from the wealth of inventiveness and discovery which marked that cultural resurgence: for example, the rendering of pictorial linear perspective, dating from Brunelleschi’s seminal experiment at the Baptistry of Florence Cathedral. This in turn engendered a number of fine art images of “ideal cities” painted in single-point perspective, attributed to Fra Carnevale and other artists. These two-dimensional images, which create the illusion of three-dimensional perspective depth, I have used as inspiration to create, in actual three-dimensional space, a version of such a location; but because of the very fact that I am working in three dimensions, I have added to the mix the use of forced perspective, with the additional curve on the ball (no pun intended) of some curvilinear vanishing lines as well as straight ones. The mellow hues of honey-toned stone and stucco provide the palette, and I hope the whole provides a complementary framing for the vitality of Gillian’s costumes and Philip’s dynamic action.