Designer David Haworth talks about the process of, and the inspirations behind, the design for the stage production of ‘Hidden’.
“When I am designing a new show I look for inspiration, of course, from the script itself but also from the world we live in and from fine art. In the case of ‘Hidden’, set on Hayling island but dealing with and evoking Iraq, I began looking at contemporary Iraqi art.
Something that struck me straight away about the art of contemporary Iraq is how it is defined by destruction; born out of war, it tries to find beauty and expression through a backdrop of conflict. The art I was drawn to was abstract, colourful, layered with depth and meaning. I had found my ‘world’ for ‘Hidden’
I really liked the following pieces, the abstract quality, the colour and texture of this one, the suggestion of Arabic letters. I started thinking that I might be able to represent a very ‘English’ landscape (Hayling Island) in this Iraqi abstract way.”
Kareem Risan Drawings and Marks (2010)
“The work of Nazar Yahya interests me as it focuses on water and what lies beneath, he deals with the Iraqi war through how it affected the river, where fish are replaced with dead men’s bodies. This all chimed with the Dunkirk story in the play as well as Mohammad’s arrival. I like the way he layers his paintings. This got me thinking about layers within my set design, the idea of images and things being buried in other things. This was where I started exploring the idea of the hut being ‘hidden’ in the sand.”
Nazar Yahya. Spring (2010)
“This is another abstract work which I love, I like the textures and hints of stories within it. When I started looking at weathered wooden huts (later) this picture came back to me, I kept coming back to this painting and it has remained a key influence in the design of the back drop for ‘Hidden’.”
“This artist layers photos and painting, she also uses found objects to make art, during the war in Iraq it was very hard to access art materials, so it made sense that ‘found’ objects as ‘art’ would become a theme. This got me thinking about found objects on a beach. As apart from Alix, all our characters are ‘washed up’ on the beach, Samir metaphorically, Mohammad literally. I then started exploring the idea that all things in our world could be objects washed up on the beach…”
“Again, there is something beautiful but also damaged and menacing about Kareem Risan’s work and I like the textural quality and use of colour…”
“When I started looking at weathered wooden huts, I was reminded of these pieces…”
“Looking at things washed up on beaches… I think this is a little extreme, but I was drawn to the fact that often the debris defines a tide line along the beach like you get with seaweed sometimes. I also think there could be a comment about plastic in our seas there…
I like the bucket, which could be turned over and used as a seat, this made me think that all of our props could come from this tide line.”
“I was taken by the gentle slope and the kind or tiers of the beach at Hayling, I’m looking at ways we could get this slope going all the way to the floor level and also looking at softening edges of our performance space.”
Design research trip to Hayling Island.
“If you can, it is so important to visit a place where your play is set. Although I visited Hayling in the height of summer, it still gave me some great background for my design, I was inspired by the feel of the place, this was an invaluable trip…”
“I was taken by the chain that was getting reclaimed by the beach, and the stumps of wood that once formed groins, long lost to the tide, I think that everything on our set could have that feel about it. I liked this picture I found of a gate that is the most weather-beaten gate in the world! “
“Turning my attention to the hut. I was looking at the types of hut it might be in reality, an empty hut frequented by all the teenagers of the island. I’m thinking they have broken in to a nature reserve, so I thought Hides might be a nice place to look. A basic hide is just like an empty shed with a bench and windows. I think the bench might be useful to lift Mohammed up when he is lying down. I like the idea that the Hide is also like a look out post, there is something about the feeling of the enemy closing in, be it teenagers or police.
I decided to represent the hut with just two walls, forming a 90 degrees corner, with a bench that gives it solidity. The walls are unseen, flat on the stage during act one, then they are hoisted into position as we transition into act two. I want the walls to be quite weathered and see-through. These pictures appealed to me…”
“I like the see-through quality of this wall.”
“I like the feel that this wall has been made out things washed up on the beach.
These images and the ones I took of Hayling, combined with the artwork of Iraq, formed the basis of my whole set design for ‘Hidden’.”