Sie sind auf Seite 1von 10

Unit 2 Design Narratives

Critical Practical Task 2


Medea : Collaborative Design Commentary

During our second unit, Design Narratives, we were asked to test our ideas

through a collaborative design project by working with a postgraduate directing

student, from drama school East 15. I was partnered with Daniela Atiencia, with

whom we were asked to jointly devise, plan and deliver a speculative design in

six weeks for one of the following plays : Euripides Medea, Tennessee Williams

A Streetcar Named Desire or Brechts The Good Person of Szechwan. We were

asked to choose from any of the three National Theatre theatres to become out

venue to base the project.

My director settled on Rachel Cusks modern version of Medea. We chose

to stage the speculative production at the Lyttelton Theatre. I will expand on our

reasons for these decisions further in the commentary.

Overall outcome of the project

Unfortunately, the project was not executed the way either me, or Daniela, had

hoped it would be. We had some problems with the collaboration and did not

end up giving the presentation together, but instead separately which was a

great shame.

In this commentary, I aim to examine the flaws of the project, and

hopefully identify some positive aspects and ideas as well. I will first discuss

some of the strengths and weaknesses of the collaborative relationship and then

I will move on to analyses, largely chronologically, the process of the design and

the reasons behind our creative decisions. As I do this, I will highlight difficulties

that arose throughout the process.

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
I think it is very important to discuss and evaluate the experience under

the circumstances. Hopefully, even if the project was more of a failure that a

success, I will have learnt from it and will use that experience to not make the

same mistakes in future working relationships.

Strengths of the Collaboration

Initially I feel we had a good working relationship, from the very first meeting we

communicated very easily with each other and I think we both had a positive

outlook of working together. During the first few weeks of meetings we

continued to communicate our thoughts on the play successfully. We had a very

productive meetings, were we discussed the meaning and key themes Rachel

Cusks versions focuses on which provoked ideas for key aspects of the design.

For example, these meetings were the inspiration for the set to be made of

something resembling a cold, marbled surface.

Our working relationship continued to develop positively and the ideas

flowed. I think in this ideas stage we responded well to each others suggestions

and uncertainties and were making good progress.

Unfortunately, this positive progression did not continue resulting in a

disappointing end point. I will now go on to discuss the weaknesses of the

project and our working relationship. I think if we could have overcome these

weaknesses we would have produced a successful design as we had good ideas

and were largely on the same page in terms of what we wanted to get across, and

ascetically how we wanted it to look.

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
What makes the failure of the project more disappointing for both of us, is

that on a personal level we got on very well. It is saddening that in this case, our

professional relationship, unlike our personal one, was not as good of a match.

Weaknesses of the Collaboration

As I have mentioned earlier, this collaborative design project had some major

weaknesses. I have written a little on each of the main flaws I have identified :

The director / designer collaboration was a new experience for both me

and Daniela. If I could have the experience again, I would make sure that I did not

allow her to take so long to finalise decisions. These decisions, or lack of, cut off

valuable time. For example, we spent much too long deciding which venue to

stage our production, debating the Olivier or the Lyttleton. Initially, Daniela had

picked the Olivier, in hindsight I should not have given her the option of thinking

it over, even after the visit to the National Theatre. This resulted in her doubting

her original decision and eventually after much debate changing it to the

Lyttleton. This meant I was already behind because until I had the final decision I

could not move forward and assemble the model box.

On reflection of the project, she told me her weakness is a procrastination

to make final decisions. Throughout the project I had a responsibility as a

designer to push for finalisation of her decisions. A failure of me doing so,

perhaps due to awkwardness of coming across pushy, was not a good

combination. I think this is something we will both take away from the project

for future collaborative projects.

I felt like Daniela was, at times, being too literal with the design and

focusing in too much on tiny details like what colour the phone should be instead

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
of finalising major set and costume ideas. Looking back I know that I was

worried about giving negative critique on ideas. I should have given my honest


Despite the end result, we actually did a lot of work in terms of research

and planning. I think we were both very informed about our ideas and design. I

believe this is because we had four good lengthy meetings within the first three

weeks, shared lots of images on a shared Pinterest page in between the meetings,

and spoke on the phone. However, decisions were still not finalised till around

this three week mark which left only three weeks to produce the design. It

became extremely prop heavy with a minimal set, which meant I had a lot of

work to do. She kept adding more and more props which would have been

impossible to achieve. This is were I should have spoken up and explain she was

asking too much for the time frame that was left. Instead (being a people pleaser)

I said I would try and get it done, this only disappointed myself, Daniela and I am

sure yourself and Matthew, when I could not.

My biggest flaw was my time management, I talk responsibility for that

and I should have aimed to make less and finished it to the highest quality. I

think in the future I need to produce a detailed schedule with more realistic

expectations of how long each thing will take me to produce. I hope that with

more experience I will get better at being more accurate with my estimations. My

issue with time management develops from feeling unconfident about making

the model, in this case, all the ideas were there and I felt like it would work as a

design so it is very frustrating.

I think I spent too much time invested in developing the idea with Daniela

almost as co-directors when I should have acted more as a designer. I realise that

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
I should have had designs finished earlier than the days before the presentation,

but whenever I sent Daniela images she did not give any feedback. I found this

discouraging, especially as she said she had liked them afterwards. I assumed she

did not like some of them and scrapped the drawings because of her lack of

communication. Although my time management was the main weakness of the

project, I feel both myself and Daniela could have communicated much better.

The Design Process


First we discussed the venue, Daniela decided to stage our version of Medea in

the Lyttleton. Originally, I thought it could be interesting to perform a very

modern version in the Olivier because of the link of the shape of the theatre and

Greek amphitheatres, where it would have first been staged. However, the

proscenium arch theatre had a cinematic feel which we liked. The boxed-looking

stage creates a feeling that you are looking in at the action. We found this

attractive as opposed to the Dorfman were we felt like a large portion of the

audience would be looking down at Medea. We were quite clear we did not want

to feel like we were looking down or judging Medea so the seating in the

Dorfman was unsuitable.

Key themes

Rachel Cusks Medea is an extremely modern version. We talked a lot about the

thematic ideas it provokes and what we felt its key themes were. Elements we

wanted to highlight were : a breakdown of a marriage, the social taboo of a

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
woman not desiring to have children and the sense that there must be something

wrong with her, and the social taboo of women abandoning children, especially

after separation.

Structure of the play

Cusks version of Medea is made up of nineteen scenes, some of which are less

than a page long. Therefore, when reading this adaptation I viewed it as snippets

of insight into Medeas world, and her emotional state, in the period of a

traumatic time post her separation to Jason.

The transitions between the scenes, or snippets, are so rapid however we

decided to design the set as an unidentified place so it could be adapted quickly

into all the different scenes. We decided to either roll or fly the set/props in. We

liked the idea that things are suspended like her life as after the separation she

feels as if shes in limbo and everything she thought she had is up in the air.

Design choices

The storm marble represents the chaos and turmoil she feel at the beginning of

the play. She keeps talking about breaking and smashing things: I want to smash

a wall to see the hole my fist punched through it. / I want to throw something

and watch it break. / I want to have an effect At the end of the play we play

visually with this idea of smashing things and as the bottles/air plants drop it is

as if she is doing it with the force of her mind.

Initially we had a design problem regarding the visible wings. We had to

compromised the all marble walls on the side of the set, as well as the back wall,

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
so that our or props could be rolled on smoothly from the wings (e.g. prams,

Segway, the writing desk, the boys wheelie trainers).

Our design solution was to create marble shapes at the front of the stage

that block the wing area and create the impression that the marble goes on

forever in this unidentified and changeable location.

Design flaws

I made a huge error by not researching the flying system well enough in the

Lyttleton theatre. If I had done so I would have made my life a lot easier and the

results of the flying system design for Medea would have worked much better as

I would have known that I could have used a lot more. When I improve this

design I will fix this problem.


When the play begins we see Medea at her most vulnerable, it is the only scene

that she is crying and appears to be morning her marriage. The Nurse mentions

she has not eaten her dinner and it seems like she is acting quite childish. There

is an interesting family dynamic between the Tutor, Nurse and Medea especially

when she comes to sit on the Tutors lap. From this we were inspired to dress

Medea in her pyjamas with messy, untamed hair and her wedding veil. The

wedding veil is her last sentimental act towards the marriage and once it

removes she becomes more and more angry.

In scene 3, the gaggle of mums invade her space with their giant prams.

Medea leaves the stage to remove the pyjamas and re-entering the stage in her

yoga clothes that she would be wearing underneath. Under her arm she would be

carrying a yoga mat and would start stretching and warming up while the chorus

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
surround her. Her yoga clothes are earthy colours (greens and browns) which

helps to represent a change in Medeas emotional state as shes becoming more

composed and looks calmer from the outside compared to scene one. The yoga

clothes are strappy around the ankles and upper body creating a warrior look

and also drawing on similar images to Ancient Greek sandals. Her hair would be

tied up in a ponytail but still messy and untamed.

The cleaner in the next scene will clean up Medeas appearance. She will

untie her ponytail and braid it into a neat plait. Instead of cleaning the house,

shes cleaning up Medea.

The family dynamic in the first scene with the Tutor and Medea places the

Nurse as the surrogate parent figures. The nurse would dress quite traditional,

and in her late 50s / early 60s we have designed her with a cardigan and skirt

looking motherly or grandmotherly. Similar to the Nurse, the Tutor is late 50s /

early 60s. Connected to Medea through the pretend family set up, their costumes

would also have a bohemian feel. The tutor would wear a cotton shirt with a

woollen vest over the top and glasses.

We first see Jason on a massage table speaking to Medea through his

Apple watch. He is wearing gold boxer shorts. The gold is a running theme with

the design of Jasons costumes as a reference to the myth of the Golden Fleece.

The only scene we do not see Jason wearing gold is the last scene at the hospital

when the boys die. By that point he has lost his status and reputation. To quote

the messenger talking about Jason: His work dried up; with two children in tow,

/ penniless now, and with a ruined wife. After the massage scene, we see Jason

out walking Glauces dog. He is wearing the golden fleece. Inspired by Baroque

fashion we wanted this jacket to look old and dated for the contemporary setting

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
like it has been passed down for years and years. As we move into the play,

Jasons costumes keep consistent with the gold and black but we start to see his

new, young, LA wifes influence and the costumes become more futuristic and


In scene 15 when Glauce appears she will be wearing matching running

Lycra but her colours will be pink and black, as opposed to Jason who will be

wearing the black and gold again for the reference to the golden fleece.

Creon is the King, or in this adaptation the king of the film industry.

Despite being a similar age to the Tutor, he would be looking very sharp in a

burgundy suit made of velvet. He is rich, powerful and would need to look the

part. He enters Medeas home on a Segway wearing a crown made of 50 notes.

The interaction between Creon and Medea is very heated and witty, we imagines

Creon snaking around Medea on the Segway being quite creepy.

As a collaborative project this obviously had serious flaws, and in that respect

was an unsuccessful project. In terms of what it has taught me, it has been

extremely informative and something that I never wish to repeat in a working

relationship again.

Regretfully, I think because we naturally found it very easy to talk to one

another, if we had been able to communicate our needs better as a director and

designer, and both push each other to finalise decisions / have stuck to a

schedule, then I think we would have worked well together.

I have leant that I need to be vocal as a designer. If the director is

spending too much time pondering over aspects, or location, I need to encourage

Unit 2 Design Narratives
Critical Practical Task 2
progression so that I have enough time to execute the visuals. I need to explain to

the director, or collaborator, what is physically possible to produce in the time

frame instead of being overly ambitious, obliging to all their wishes and then not

being able to finish the model box or failing to produce it to the high quality.

I believe we had good ideas that with better communication and being

present at the college to receive more guidance from tutors, the project could

have been conducted with much more success.