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.

 Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh 1966-68

Extract from ‘Musings of a Jobbing Designer’

The Lyceum Theatre Company had been set up the year before with Tom Fleming as artistic director and Abd'Elkader Farrah as head of design with the idea of replicating Stratford production values. Apparently it hit the financial rocks quite early and Tom Fleming left and he was replaced by Clive Perry with Richard Eyre as his associate. But the structure of the design department and the philosophy, (think Brechtian) that had been set up remained in place and I was able to benefit enormously from it during the two years that I was there. Apart from Farrah, there was his assistant, Hamish Henderson, and two other assistant designers, Andrew Sanders and Ian Watson: my title was Arts Council Design Assistant, which followed the rule of the more junior the post the longer the title. It made up for the £14 pw wage packet. When I arrived I had no idea what to really expect but I had started my professional life

One important lesson I learnt as an assistant was don’t throw scraps of paper away. A distinguished guest designer came to do a Checkov play and rather than provide a model, he gave beautiful water colour renderings of each act and free hand annotated working drawings which it was my job to draw up for the carpenters. This I did and everything was fine until it came to handling the flats. The designer had specified really bulky mouldings high up on very tall flats. These had been made of profiled ply. When it came to standing them up flats were very likely to break. When the designer saw them he questioned the way I had interpreted the designs, and it was only after rescuing his originals from the wastepaper basket that my face was saved. On stage when everything was in position it became obvious why he had chosen the proportions he had. But it was a scary moment.

‘Truth to materials’ was a watch word and we never scene painted a piece of 1/8th ply if we could stain a piece of 6’’ x 1’’. I don’t know how many planks I stained with Vandyke or other dyes and scorched with a flame gun and wire brushed. Or how many acres of muslin I cut into small squares to apply to carved polystyrene with hot size glue.

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‘Juno and The Paycock’ by Sean O’Casey

Director: Richard Eyre

Lighting: Andre Tammes

My first professional production. I will never forget the terror when reality struck and the designs had to be transformed from drawings and models into the real thing. Much of the research for the set was done among the crumbling tenements that were being demolished in Edinburgh at the time, and which were markedly similar to Dublin slums. A great deal of effort was given to making the crumbling textures as real as possible. The argument that audiences do not notice minute detail in a setting is a myth. Not only are they confronted with the set over a long time span, but also those that are close can be very close indeed.

It was a huge privilege to be able to work with such a distinguished company on my first professional production.

Richard Eyre was at the beginning of his career in 1968 but everyone new then that he would do great work.

‘The Ha-Ha’ by Richard Eyre and ‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller.

Both directed by Richard Eyre and lit by Andre Tammes