As set designer of the largest set The Cultch has seen, with the upcoming The Virtual Stage/Studio 58 co-production of 1984, Drew Facey says sometimes size does matter.
“Well, apparently I’m a total size queen,” confessed Facey. “The design is quite complex with two stories, a series of massive, 18 foot tall pillars and fragments of arches, a rolling factory ladder and a huge clock face, all of which looks bombed out.”
In this multi-media stage adaptation of Orwell’s classic, Facey also tells us there are 13 televisions integrated into the set ranging in size from 22 up to 65 inches and lots of space for the large cast.
“I wanted a space that could support the giant crowd scenes and I also wanted a space with imposing architecture, a space to support the themes of oppression and surveillance,” he explained.
A “feast for the senses”, Facey is not only excited by the production, he is equally as excited about working with his alma mater.
“It’s great going back and working at Studio 58 as a professional designer,” he said. “It’s always so fantastic to work with the students there. They are so excited about the work and unbelievably dedicated and passionate about the theatre. It really does renew my own passion seeing so much love of this art form.”
Facey’s passion is undeniable, especially when he talks about the opportunity to collaborate with other artists: “the best projects are the ones where the director brings a bunch of ideas to the table and I bring a bunch of ideas to the table and we start playing with how it all goes together.”
Having worked on his set design for 1984 since last summer when the project was work-shopped, he began the detailed design work and research on the show in October and finished the designs in January. While that might seem like a long time for a single project, when you consider the work that goes into researching, conceptualizing, modeling and building, the time must fly by.
“I collect tons of images when I’m in the conceptual stages of a project, anything that speaks to me in terms of color, texture, shape, tone, architecture, fashion. Then I start building a scale white model,” he explained. “I develop the design with the director and then move into building the final model. I do all of the drafting for the carpenters as well as paint details for the scenic painters. I also work closely with the props master on all the furniture, dressing and hand props used in a production.”
Drawing inspiration for his 1984 design from images of post-war London, abandoned, derelict industrial spaces and mid-20th century Soviet architecture, Facey also found himself drawn to the “aesthetic of retro-futurism from the 1940s and 50s”, not to mention Orwell’s own descriptions of Oceania.
Not one for dwelling on a project, Facey is off to Chemainus the day after 1984 opens to begin work with a production of Steel Magnolias directed by Nicola Cavendish. But for Facey, moving on so quickly suits his love of the temporal nature of theatre.
“So much of the art world is about permanence, creating a visual legacy, archiving everything, and I just wanted to toss it all out once it was created and make something new. Nothing can be precious that way and I find it a very exciting way to work.”
25 March – 3 April 2011
This multi-media stage adaptation imaginatively interprets George Orwell’s timeless and prophetic masterpiece. In the bleak society of Oceania, under the constant surveillance of Big Brother and the Thought Police, lowly worker Winston Smith engages in a dangerous and forbidden love affair with Julia. How will they survive in the dystopian world where true love is forbidden and punishable by death? Visit http://www.thecultch.com for tickets and information.