14 March 2011

Designing the Set for Our Man in Havana

drama on the waterfront sat down with designer John Hodgkins to talk about the dynamic set for Our Man in Havana.

DOTW: Can you please tell us about your vision for the set for Our Man in Havana? Were you familiar with the original novel before you began working on your design concept?

JH: I had some recollection of the movie, but had not read the book prior to reading the script for the play.

(left to right) Jessica Robinson, Jeff Kingsford-Brown, Simon Vincent. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
DOTW: What is the process involved in developing a set for a show like this? Can you give us a quick description of the process from concept to final build?

JH: Initially there was a lot of discussion with the director, about the overall concept and in particular how we could achieve the multiple locations required. The design went through a number of concept and development stages before arriving at a final design. This design is further modified during rehearsals. As the design required video and still projections, these elements were developed with the AV designer in a style to blend with the set concept. The majority of the set was constructed and finished off site then dismantled and re-assembled in the theatre.

DOTW: Projected images are a big part of the set and provide the means to switch between locations; how did this part of the set come to be? Where did the images come from?

JH: Most of the images are location settings for various scenes in the play. These are indicated in the script, a large number of possible images were then sourced by the AV designer, and through discussion a short list drawn up. The images where then processed by the AV design team to achieve the look required. The majority of images were sourced via the internet.

(left to right) John Wraight and Jeff Kingsford-Brown. Photo by Stephen A'Court.

DOTW: Were there any particular challenges in realizing your overall vision for the set?

JH: The main challenge for this show was achieving quick scene changes to multiple different locations while still keeping a unified feel to the set as a whole. This was achieved in part by use of AV projections, but also by the overall set giving a sense of place (Havana / Cuba) rather than trying to create multiple specific locations.

DOTW: Our Man in Havana is very strong visually and really succeeds in evoking the seedy world of 1950s Havana; what was your favourite part of designing the set for this show?

JH: The most satisfying part of designing the set was blending the different architectural elements, surface textures and colours of Cuba, into a few set elements. To give a feel for the setting of the play without overwhelming the audience with lots of detail.

DOTW: Finally, what should audiences know about Our Man in Havana?

JH: It a great night's entertainment with lots of humor, but the story will keep you on your toes with some unexpected twists.

John Wraight. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Our Man in Havana runs in Circa One until 26 March. To book, call the Circa Box Office at 801-7992 or go online at www.circa.co.nz.

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