Round Up – Georgian Theatre Project I
I was commissioned early this year to make a body of work responding to the beautiful Georgian theatre in Richmond; it’s a wonderful building and doubles as a theatre museum during the day as well as a living theatre at night. I thought it would be great to do a couple of posts explaining how I approached the project, the progress I made and how it turned out. If nothing else, it will be a useful reminder for myself – I learnt so much doing this that I don’t want to forget it all ! I kept a blog while I did the project (over at http://sarahmorpeth.blogspot.co.uk/) but it was more of a daily record; now looking back gives me a bit of time to reflect and consider.
I had been to the Theatre as a child – in fact it was the first time I ever saw a play so it felt like an opportunity to connect with something personal to me. I knew that I would be interested in the theatre’s history and was attracted by the idea of being able to get a feel not only for the building but also for its history, through reading through some of the archives, talking to the guides on the guided tours that run every day and researching as well as just spending time getting to know the building. The project really began when I spent a week armed with sketchbook and camera wandering around the theatre. I set myself up in corners, finding places to draw to get as many perspectives on the theatre as I could. I wanted to have a bit of quiet time just to get a feel for the place.
I took loads of photographs and sat in corners quietly drawing; just listening to the building, the sounds from the street, the echoes of voices and the creak of the stage. Noticing little details – a few sparkles left over from the pantomime; stage manager’s scribbles and lists; odd bits and pieces in the dressing rooms.
I tried not to think too much about what I was going to do – there’s a bit of pressure in knowing that you have to produce a body of work at the end of a project and I didn’t want to jump too quickly at an idea before giving myself a chance to experiment a bit and play with lots of different possibilities. I learnt a lot from my college course – not just my degree course but actually the Foundation year – about structuring a project and the importance of building in time to experiment and sample and investigate. Also I think it’s important to get a bit of distance from which to look back and see what has actually stood out – going through all my photos for example, seeing what I’d naturally gravitated towards. I’d obviously been struck by all the text in the theatre as I’d taken so many images featuring words: