My “Attempts” on “Her Life” – Set Design for “Attempts On Her Life”

Note: Blog post first posted at TheatreFace on September 13, 2012, before this blog was set up.

Tomorrow is the closing show for LASALLE College of the Art’s production of Attempts on Her Life, after having its opening show just yesterday. Well not only was the run short, the entire production period was short too. We had our first meeting with the production and creative team on 1 August, and I had to have a finalised set design two weeks later. Fortunately, this show is not really something complicated (as in this is not supposed to be a very techy kind of performance), so the deadline was still manageable for me. The only problem for me, however, is that I did not know how to start my design process, especially so when Stefanos, my director, have had no idea yet during our first meeting.

 

So, on our first creative meeting, ideas were formed, torn apart and rebuilt over and over again, until suddenly, Stefanos said that he would like to look at it from the perspective of humanity; Anne/ Anny/ Anya/ Annushka, the principal “character” whom is never seen or heard in the entire play, but appeared to be a lover in one scene, a terrorist in another, and a car somewhere later on in the play, is more like a personified/ objectified quality of contemporary human being. Therefore, in essence, Attempts on Her Life, to Stefanos, should be like a bible for humanity. With that in mind, I started looking into possible moods and atmospheres to support this new-found direction, and we finally decided to have an ankle-high pool on stage, something that resembles a ritual pool in religious compounds. Due to various constraints, the pool went through rounds of changes: from an oval infinity pool (which I already knew would burst our budget) to an oval metal rim pool to a rectangular raised pool to finally, a 5m by 4m pool bordered by a 2 metre-wide perimeter walkway.

Concept 1

Concept 1

Concept 2

Concept 2

Concept 3

Concept 3

Concept 4

Concept 4

In order to cut cost, we decided to get our set builder to just build the “dish” of the pool while we use our venue’s risers to form the pool’s perimeter walkway. In order to prevent water from leaking through the wooden pool and causing damage to the stage deck, we covered a big piece of PVC sheet over the pool, with the edge of the PVC sheet securely drilled down in between the risers and painted floorboards. The basis of the idea is good, but to make a big piece of untrimmed PVC sheet take on the shape of the pool is not easy, even after a long period of pulling, dragging, folding and forcefully pressing down in place with the help of about 10 crew.

Getting the pool ready (source: Instagram)

After the PVC sheet was done, it was time to add in the water, but filling up the water is a pain! Our toilet hose is far too long and the water pressure is far too weak, so it actually took 2 hours to fill water of just 5cm high. Pumping out water is faster though, but still taxing for the crew, as they have to make numerous trips to-and-fro the theatre and the main road to dispose buckets of water that they have been sucked out by the vacuum pump. Well thank goodness this need not be done on a daily basis!

Waiting for the pool to be filled up can help the set designer fall asleep faster...

Waiting for the pool to be filled up can help the set designer fall asleep faster…

Mopping dry the PVC sheet by everyone, including our sound designer and operator, and me, after pumping out the water and getting ready to close the theatre for Sunday!

Mopping dry the PVC sheet by everyone, including our sound designer and operator, and me, after pumping out the water and getting ready to close the theatre for Sunday!

The completed set with water, fluorescents and actors, as in "Previous Frozen" scene during full dress; actually they WERE frozen because the water was really cold!

The completed set with water, fluorescents and actors, as in “Previous Frozen” scene during full dress; actually they WERE frozen because the water was really cold!

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Author: aaron yap

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