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Designing Narratives

22 January

Text work with Sibusiso Mamba


On the 21st and 22nd of January we had very interesting lessons with actor and director Sibusiso Mamba where he talked about the director-designer relationship, ways to approach the design and the basic construction of a play. He talked about taking ownership of the narrative as a designer and the importance of knowing the structure of the play before doing the design. It will empower us as designers and help make the story become as powerful as it can. He gave us useful tools to work with, such as a chart of narrative structure. We were giving a small rehearsal project, and then we should choose a play, read it and come up with a design idea and present next time.

The narrative structure of a play. 


19 February

Working with a director/Inspiration from music with Michael Vale


Today we had a class with our course leader Michael Vale, where he spoke about the structure when working with a director towards a design and ways to externalize a script. We also did a very good exercise on getting inspiration from music. We started by reading a bit about Shostakovich’s symphony no. 12, which he composed in 1961 and subtitled The Year of 1917, dedicating it to the memory of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution. We then listened to the first part of the symphony three times and made drawings while listening keeping in mind what we had read about the piece.

I have always found it a good way to listen to music to get inspiration could even see myself doing a design proposal on a music-based theatre piece as my final project.

4 March

A Doll’s house by Henrik Ibsen


I chose the play A Doll‘s House by Henrik Ibsen to work with as a practice design project. The play is significant for its critical attitude toward 19th-century marriage norms. It aroused great controversy at the time, as it concludes with the protagonist, Nora, leaving her husband and children because she wants to discover herself. The play was premiered in 1879 but in my opinion it can still speak to a modern audience.


My idea is to use Nora’s character as main inspiration for the set.  I want her to look small in a big fragile and confused world. When reading the play, I pictured her stuck in a maze or like a bird in a cage. Her world is fragile and gradually falling apart throughout the play. She can see what is on the outside – but she can’t leave.  It is only at the very end that she turns her back to this world and leaves.


I would like to set the play in the present, or in some undefined period. I would like to use a big stage, possibly the Lyttleton Theatre, that emphasises how small and alone Nora is in her fragile world. I want to make a clear statement with the design and make the audience get the feeling that they are inside Nora’s mind. I imagine the set build of glass and mirrors, using cold colour palette of blues and grays. I picture Nora wearing a simple dress of thin sheer fabric in a very light colour.


I made a few sketches and Sibu gave me a good feedback on my ideas, said it was a bold step to build the design completely around one character, but could work very well if I would spend time looking into how the other characters could fit into the space, how the change the landscape and how Nora would react differently when she is with different characters. I would also need to look into how she steps out of this world. Does it fall apart? Can she escape? Does it take her with it?


Here are some photos that I found inspiring.

My sketches.

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