Designing the dream, not the drawing room

Designing the dream, not the drawing room

In the 1960s, young Australian designers were part of a new arts culture, with new plays and new theatre buildings, making a new kind of theatre: designing 'the dream, and not the drawing room'.

In their hands the idea hit the stage assertively - as a single, strong visual statement, the visual metaphor writ LARGE. There was no room for detail here - their designs were defined by stripping back to essentials, raw materials were allowed to speak for themselves, unexpected elements were put together with little interest in conventional notions of harmony or unity and the performance space was seen as an installation with the workings of the production exposed as a vital and valid dramatic component.

The ideas of Brecht and Meyerhold had finally made it onto Australian stages – 60 years late. As designer Bill Haycock put it: [those designers] 'dragged Australian stage design screaming into the twentieth century'.

The 2019 Sydney Design Festival comes to NIDA on 9 March, with stimulating and provocative panel discussions interrogating excellence and access in design for performance in live theatre, film and television across six decades of practice.

'This forum gathers together designers from across Australia and elsewhere to discuss trends and aesthetics - to hear from those who have shaped Design for Performance since the 1960s and to learn from those who will re-shape the next 60 years,' said Dr Julie Lynch APDG, Director, Centre for Design Practices at NIDA.

NIDA’s event, Accessing Design Excellence, interrogates excellence and access in design for performance across six decades of practice, beginning with the 1960s. Leading award-winning members of the design community in Australia will be in attendance to stimulate and provoke discussion.

Award-winning NIDA Director, Centre for Design Practices, Dr Julie Lynch APDG; Course Leader and theatre professional Dr Suzanne Osmond; and live performance designer and Senior Lecturer Stephen Curtis will lead a panel discussion with outstanding NIDA design alumni Tobhiyah Stone Feller and Sabina Myers.

The sessions provide an opportunity for audience members to hear contributions from several award-winning special guests, for example:

  • Australian theatre director, designer and Artistic Director of Theatre of Image Kim Carpenter AM, APDG;
  • Australian opera and theatre costume and set designer Bill Haycock;
  • Director Jim Sharman;
  • Set, commercial and event designer Eamon D’Arcy;
  • Screen production designer Tim Ferrier APDG;
  • Costume designer Tess Schofield APDG;
  • Opera and theatre set and costume designer Dan Potra;

Contributions from

  • Award-winning screen production designer Deborah Riley APDG; 
  • Oscar nominee and BAFTA award-winning screen production designer Fiona Crombie;​ 
  • Stage and screen designer Alice Babidge;
  • Theatre, opera and ballet set and costume designer Gabriela Tylesova. 

Tickets available online $10, conc $5:  https://supporters.nida.edu.au/single/eventDetail.aspx?p=2759 

Images: (Top) Veneer, NIDA, 1988. Directed by Kim Carpenter AM. Designed by Catherine Martin. (Bottom) A Dream Play, NIDA, 2015. Directed by Kim Carpenter AM, Set/Props/Costume Designer Isabel Hudson, Lighting Designer Timothy Spohr.