Martin Morley

A Life in Theatre & Television Design

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Where possible I have given photo credits. For those I have over looked I hope I have not given offence. Most of the rehearsal photos are my own taken with a simple point and shoot camera.


‘Y Fordaith Fawr’ 2014 & ‘Plentyn y Byd’ 2015

During 2014 and 2015 I had the pleasure of designing two community projects for Alleni Môn, an Anglesey based group set up to encourage a love of  drama amongst disadvantaged young people on the island. On both occasions the projects were directed by Tim Baker of Clwyd Theatre Cymru. What was so special about the projects was that though the young people had little stage experience Tim was able, by demanding the best and not talking down to them, to produce shows of real quality. The two shows were both very music based. The first, ’Y Forddaith Fawr’ (The Big Journey) told the story of a North Wales family making the journey by clipper ship to the New World in the 19th century.

‘Plentyn y Byd’ (Children of the World) was a collective dream of the young people as they visited different world cultures. In each there was a cast of about fifty. The venue for both was the Canolfan Hamdden, (Liesure Centre) Beaumaris, so not a natural theatre space, but with the simple facilities available and the sophisticated lighting equipment supplied by Clwyd Theatr Cymru and two great lighting designers, we were able to produce two very satisfying productions. The images below show the design process for both shows from conception to dress rehearsal.

‘Y Fordaith Fawr’

Design proposal  for Alleni community project

When I first heard about this I couldn’t get my head around it. But after seeing the most impressive snippet in rehearsal and hearing what Tim had to say and watching the DVD it all seems a bit more possible if still a big challenge.

When I first saw the Canolfaen Hamdden Beaumaris my heart sank, it seemed so barren but with ingenuity it can be made to work. My first instinct was to strip it bare and show all the workings but to make that work properly we would need more time and money than we have at our disposal, particularly with lighting. I do hope however that we can find a way to use strong side and top lighting. My original thought of suspending vertical bars from in-house ones may not be feasible as they do not extend to the edge of the hall, but we should be able to find a way of having floor stands. The Canolfan possess 2 plus LEDs.

As discussed at the meeting I think a form of thrust stage with differing levels could engage the audience more than an end stage and a fluid, open ‘Brechtian’ style of design, which springs from the direction.

I have done a few impressions of what we may need. An attempt to capture the ideas that Tim expressed: at this stage they are nothing nut ideas for discussion.

What follows are drawings of items that could probably be sourced either free by people scouring their attics and garden sheds or bought at a modest cost to use as props / set elements. I’m very conscious that sets often consume lots of materials that ends up in a skip. I will try, where feasible to use ‘found’ materials, so come the end there is little trace. That’s the theory. The most important resource we have is people’s skills and with families involved I’m sure there are many. Useful would be those handy with a sewing machine and if anyone has an industrial one that would be a bonus, also carpenters and welders and anyone good with their hands who likes making things.

In effect there is no ‘scenery’ just an unfolding array of items to suggest time and place. The performers and what they wear will do most of the work together with the lighting and sound.

Another device that appeals to me is to stretch horizontal wires across the stage, on which could be strung banners, washing, etc.

And lastly effects. Smoke and haze and a hand held smoke machine could be very useful and also old fashioned Victorian sound effect machinery operated in full view can be very effective and great fun.

This is just a beginning: there are many unanswered questions the most important being where to position the band. My instinct is on the floor audience right.

And at the next meeting all the ideas could go up in smoke!

Above: Y Fordaith Fawr       Below: Plentyn y Byd