At The Gate Theatre, Dublin till 22nd Sept 2012
On Wednesday evening last (15th August) I enjoyed a performance of Oscar Wilde’s play A Woman of no Importance at The Gate Theatre. The production is directed by Patrick Mason, Set Designed by Eileen Diss, Costume Design by Peter O’Brien, Lighting Design by Paul Keogan, Hair and Make-up Design by Anne Dunne.
The interpretation on staged presentation resulting from the collaboration between the Director and Designers is visually appealing, effective and economical. The controlled pallet and tones of both Set and Costume focused the audience’s attention on the delivery of the author’s words and the performance of the cast. The metallic like material in the unadorned costumes of the seated Lady Pontefract and that of Lady Hunstanton gave them the formidable appearance of occupied armoured personnel carriers
The dimly lit set is visible to the audience as they take their seats and the performance opens with a subtle light change to the leafy dappled light of a conservatory at a great English country house and the quiet arrival on stage of some of the characters.
The play is scripted to open on a terrace lawn at a large English country house, followed by an after dinner scene in a drawing room and the final scene in the picture gallery of Mrs Arbuthnot’s home.
Eileen Diss successfully adopts the concept of a large mid19th century cast iron conservatory as a structural matrix to accommodate the scenic needs of this period play. The design, allows for the seamless, smooth, unfolding of the play, in that it minimises the interruption of scene changes between the acts on the immersion and engagement of the audience in the performance. This theatrical immersion was ably supported by the elegant resetting of the furniture, dressing props and hand props by the in-character cast between the acts.
The restrained tone and mono-chrominance of the set, costumes and set dressings does give a look to the production akin to a slightly faded, late Victorian photograph. This early photograph ambience is supported and maintained by Paul Keoghan’s subtle and unobtrusive lighting and lighting changes that bring us from sun lit, leafy exterior to lamp lit moodier evening and daytime interiors.
Costume Designer, Peter O’Brien’s costume concepts ably and with restrained aplomb, reflect the Director, Patrick Mason’s darker interpretation of Wild’s play. The “good” formidable ladies of society directing and pontificating from within the protective, folded metallic like sheets of their fortress dresses, the disarming, brash, innocence of the assertive visitor from the new world in an elegant white dress and the dark haired, darkly dressed, abandoned, fallen woman who struggles against the mores of late Victorian society to protect her son and promote his interests. The men, adorned in their smart attire, as appropriate to their stature and time of day, strut, shuffle and pose as the complacent heirs of the male dominated society of the time.
Anne Dunne’s Hair and Make-up Designs are convincing and ably support the performers in their characters and reflect the style of society at the time.
The comments and sketches in the programme by the designers Eileen Diss and Peter O’Brien are informative in giving their insight into some of the thought process behind the concept development. For students of Design for Performance and for Stage and Screen, this input from the Designers is to be welcomed and encouraged, thank you Eileen and Peter.
Eileen Diss: http://www.bl.uk/projects/theatrearchive/diss.html
Peter O’Brien: http://www.peterobriendesign.com/about.html
Paul Keogan: http://www.paulkeogan.com/
Anne Dunne: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0242818/