once upon a time…

… and in a land far, far away…

… I was a theatre designer.

A few months ago I promised some Artlog visitors that I would dig back into the ancient past and post images of designs I had made for the theatre. I have grave reservations about this, but I did promise. So here are a very few. I fear that the designs can only be shown rather small, as I have no high definition versions of the sketches. (Pre-digital snapshots from my old stage-design portfolio, the original designs for all the productions I worked on having without exception long gone, mostly given away to cast members.) The designs are for a pantomime… a uniquely British phenomenon… that I co-wrote, designed, directed and choreographed back in the early 1980s. Humpty Dumpty was produced by the New Theatre Cardiff. The sets and costumes were made in the workshops of the Welsh National Opera and the Bristol Old Vic. Four photographs here, all relating to the character of The Queen of the Night (the villainess) and her boar-headed Henchmen.

Queen of the Night costume sketch (Collection of Newport Museum and Art Gallery)

Boar-Headed Henchmen to the Queen of the Night costume sketch (Private Collection)

Mr Derek Rutt as The Queen of the Night

Royal Premiere. HRH Princess Margaret meeting the cast of Humpty Dumpty. Centre image, Mr Ronne Coyles as the Queen of Hearts and Mr Derek Rutt as the Queen of the Night.

13 thoughts on “once upon a time…

  1. Pingback: a curiosity | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Hi Clive,

    I went to see humpty dumpty at birmingham hippodrome and it brings back a lot of memories seeing Derek Rutt as the queen of the night.

    I was wondering do you have any more photos of the panto.

    Kind Regards


    • I do have a cache in a box somewhere George, though I won’t be posting any more here. But I’d be happy to send you some by e-mail. Not right now as I’m galloping to a deadline with work, but remind me at the end of February and I’ll do so then.

  3. Wow. Deliciously insightful. As Dave said, it does show that painting came as a natural evolution based on what you were doing, even if the evolution needed several iterations of self to become real.

    And please don’t have grave reservations about it–or if you do, don’t worry about it. For me personally, I was delighted at the chance to dig a bit deeper, to know a bit more, to see a bit further into the past. But it’s not worth causing you grief. I’m a big boy and can accept “No.” as a complete sentence, not to mention a final answer.

    Still, thank you! This is very cool.

    • OK Jason, I’ll ditch the reservations. Just my inappropriately anxious response to digging up the past. Enough water has passed beneath the bridge to be able to accept that evidence from my previous incarnation doesn’t distract from what I do now. In my insecurity I’d once feared that it would. I’ve a huge box of production photographs stashed away in the Battery and I’ve found it to be quite an intriguing experience trawling through them. Expect more theatre design images on the Artlog.

    • It might look as though it was a short step Dave, but believe me it wasn’t. I could draw a bit and knew how to express my ideas visually. (Sort of.) Most designers in the theatre are not also painters. There are a few exceptions, like the wonderful John MacFarlane. (See HERE) But for the most part the art and craft of set design is no longer… as it once was… founded on the skills of painting. And plenty of excellent costume designers can’t draw particularly well. I could draw well enough for what I had to do. My costume designs were reasonably set down, but when handling paint essentially I ‘coloured in’. That’s a very long way indeed from painting, and a whole universe from the artist’s goal of expressing his/her world through the medium of paint.

      A few people have surmised that I had a head start as a painter because I’d been a designer. The truth is that in practical terms on nearly every front my design experience was a hindrance. I had to un-learn the way I saw the world and un-learn how I drew, which was extremely hard.

      However where the earlier experience still shows in my painting, is in the observation and understanding of space. My stage origins are everywhere in my work on that front.

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