The Mercy Clause
The Mercy Clause
03 Dec 2014

A set design for Centrepoint Theatre.

Back in June, I helped put this piece of work together for Centrepoint Theatre in Palmerston North. The story (Philip Braithwaite) followed a lawyer's attempts to make sense of a difficult suspected murder case.

The following is a handful of images, moods and designs from the work.

From my initial notes about the set direction:

"It's the audience's role to in some way piece together Tom and Brian's disjointed verbal struggle. Rather than give the audience the comfort of a familiar setting to begin with, we saw potential for the play's initial ambiguity to be integrated with the set design, and used to our advantage. In order to maintain the 'grappling' feeling, the opening scene could be a 'blank slate' so to speak, a new case which is slowly 'textured' by the various actions, objects and ideas introduced."

Lighting state in between the final scenes (below). Lighting design by Marcus McShane.

Some initial mood imagery for the design direction.

The design and dressing was kept to a minimum. The space Rectilinear, straight edged, flat, and clean. Almost new, with a little wear, but otherwise neat and tidy, leaving room for lighting, as well as costume colour to provide texture and dynamism to the minimal construct. Hanging light panels (lit from the grid), suggested a ceiling plane, without obstructing sight lines, but still compressed the space from above. With the help of Centrepoint's resourceful in house Production Manager, Luke Anderson, and the detailed eye of Set Builder Harvey Taylor, we managed to achieve the level of precision we were after, within a tight time constraint.

Walls constructed of tall vertical blinds served the purpose of creating more set movement (line, shadow, lighting changes) across the duration of the show. This provided great opportunity for strong moods with light and shadow. Originally, we wanted to keep the space feeling as enclosed as we could, without obstructing critical sight-lines, hence the single vertical bar extending down the front to define the space (seen below). After some audience feedback and deliberation, the decision was made to remove the bar for the remainder of the season, in order to optimize visibility of the performances. Sometimes hard decisions must be made!

Some images from the performance (Director - Jeff Kingsford-Brown), showing the deteriorating tidiness of Tom's costume design (Harriet Denby).

Others involved:

Stage Manager : Joe Newman
Operator : Tyler White
Composer : Brad Jenkins
Tom : Jamie McCaskill
Brian : Jared Kirkwood
Rachel : Liz Kirkman

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