5 Questions with Narelle Sissons, Set Designer for The Seafarer

narelle-11. Were there any specific images or moments in the text that served as a spark for your design approach?

The entire play is extraordinarily rich with imagery, so I would say that the entire play conjoured the world that we see onstage. There is a paragraph that Lockhart delivers about hell, he describes being enclosed in a box and dropped into the ocean and being buried alive at the bottom in murky darkness, this image held our attention and ended up shaping the room/box in which the play takes place.

2. How did conversations with director Tracy Brigden change or affirm your ideas about the play?

Tracy is great to work with, she’s open to discussion about the play and keen to work in a more conceptual rather than just working out the needs of the room sort of way. She even sent me an image of a sink hole that sparked conversation about how the box/room mentioned above could appear to sink into the ground…this has resulted in a sideways raked floor that makes the room feel like it has a ‘flat tire’, or rather a place where sinking into the abyss has already started, it’s been great fun planning this production and figuring out how to tell the story with Tracy and the team.

3. What about with other designers? Can you tell us a bit about the collaborative process on this project?

Great process, many meetings all together. The ceiling has been discussed with Andy (Lighting Designer) because we’ve needed to make allowances in order for him to light the room. Also general design meetings to talk about the overall ideas for the production have been often and great. I need to mention the scene shop here too because this has been and continues to be a delightful experience in all departments, I feel wonderfully supported.

4. Did your upbringing in Britain inform your approach to the design?

Hummm…this is a hard one since I’ve been here so long and feel like an American…although the accent gives me away.. I would say that the approach to theatre in the UK focuses on ideas building even when faced with a so called realistic play, so my instincts are to look for images and ideas that support the bigger issues of the text. I’m actually half Irish and love a good story, so perhaps this is the best connection, oh, and all British people worry about falling into a sink hole so maybe that counts too..!

5. The play has interesting themes of chance, fate and redemption – what about the story appeals to you?

I believe that fate is real, I believe in karma and believe in consequences. Redemption is something that we seek when things are not going too well, so maybe we are redeemed by practicing good karma.. ? I like the idea that these questions are discussed by the playwright when the odds are stacked against the characters, the tension in these questions is heightened…will they be redeemed, will they get a second chance, the question is potent.

Posted by Christine Pini, Artistic Assistant


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