Five minutes with Mark McEntyre, Set Designer for FLAGONS AND FOXTROTS

What does a Set Designer do?

My role as the Set Designer is to work closely with the Director and other members of the creative team (Costume, Lighting, Sound and Props) to design the world of this play. I produce a range of conceptual drawings that set my vision of this world. I then work with the Director to ensure that it fits with their vision.

More often than not I have an established relationship with the directors so there is a lot of shorthand chat around what we are thinking. I then turn those ideas into scaled construction drawings so that they can be costed, and materials and construction determined. I also produce a model that helps in both rehearsal and construction (more importantly in finishing of the set).

I present these ideas alongside the Director and the first day of rehearsal to the cast and staff involved in the production. I then follow through the development in the rehearsal room and adjust the design as the rehearsal period develops. I work closely with the Costume and Lighting people to ensure that the colours and textures are right for what we are wanting to achieve.

I am involved in the Production week from the set pack-in to the lighting and sound techs through to opening night.

How did you get into doing this?
I have been involved in dance and theatre for around 40 years. When I was 28 years old I went to Ilam Art School, University of Canterbury where I studied sculpture and theatre and film. From there I became interested in set design and started to work as a freelance designer.

In 1992 I had the opportunity to work on Peter Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures which was a fantastic learning experience. From there I worked on a range of public events and small theatre designs for the Free Theatre Christchurch. I then joined the Court Theatre and started a long relationship working in the workshop and designing shows for Court Two and the Mainstage.

In 1997 I started working in Wellington on projects with companies like Taki Rua, Miranda Harcourt and Stuart McKenzie and then for the International Festival of the Arts Wellington. Since then I have worked in opera, dance and theatre throughout New Zealand and have had works in Melbourne Arts Festival, Edinburgh Festival and Vancouver. I am currently collaborating with Pacific Underground and Auckland Theatre Company, Tawata Productions and Wellington Opera.

What’s exciting or challenging about designing for this show?
What is exciting about designing this show is that managing that tension between 'representation' and abstraction. We need to create this sense of nostalgia and so people need to recognise themselves in the design. But at the same time it’s not real, it’s a made up space that needs to work as an abstracted space.

What’s your favourite element of the set in Flagons and Foxtrots?
My favourite part of the/element of the design is the 'whole space' every part of it is exciting for me.