Black Swan State Theatre presents Samuel Beckett’s Endgame from 27 May to 11 June 2017 in the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of WA.Making his debut for Black Swan is WAAPA graduate Tyler Hill, an emerging Western Australian Set and Costume Designer with a background in fine art and architecture. His set and costume design for this production has been inspired by the unique West Australian landscape. Tyler speaks to Stage Whispers.
With a background in fine art and architecture, what inspired you to study Design at WAAPA?
I saw the Design course at WAAPA as an opportunity to combine my experience in fine art, architecture, and storytelling. From my childhood growing up in Paraburdoo, through high school and into now my early twenty’s I have always been sketching and painting my surroundings and ideas, I think it was a perfect fit as the course is both theory and hands on. As a child I remember watching my mum making wind chimes from sticks and shells from trips to Exmouth and being a big fan of furniture rearranging. Funny enough I think this is where the idea of ‘creating’ began. I come from a family of open minded straight forward thinkers this is something I want to continue through my career as a Designer. From day one at WAAPA my focus was pursuing a career as a Designer. This involved juggling my studies with assisting and meeting with a mix of designers in the industry who’s work I admired.
What do you love about your job?
Meeting and working with a mix of people and companies, working in supportive and constructive workplaces and making a big breakthrough. Where there is an opportunity and having the chance to merge traditional and modern technologies to tell stories.
Do you think your fine art and architecture background influences the way you look at set and costumes?
I think both areas introduced me into the world of design and are of great passion even so more after finishing at WAAPA. Whenever a project calls for these influences I'll draw from my growing library of books for research. I do have favourite styles and artists, but I try to remove this when initially designing. My interests may not necessarily be cohesive with the context and function of the work.
Do you have a particular aesthetic or ideas that inform your work?
I’ve learnt to prioritise process and function over aesthetic. I focus on creating a world based on my response and exploration of the work with the director and fellow creatives. I try to challenge my own response and decisions through the creative process. Currently, I am interested in exploring the unseen perspectives of the bush, suburbia, and cities in Australia through furthering my understanding of our land, our history, our privileges, and our flaws, while bringing new perspective to unfamiliar works whether new or a classic.
You're currently working on Endgame for Black Swan. Can you take us through your creative process from when you receive a job and brief, to production day?
I met with Director and Black Swan founder Andrew Ross while still finishing my studies last year at WAAPA, when he asked me to come on board. Endgame will be heavily influenced by an abstraction of Western Australia focusing on Beckett’s reference to a surrounding ‘desert’ and heightening the ambiguity typical in his work. Every designers process is different and not to be compared. For me I need to read the play multiple times to understand the work, the context, and my response. I’ll then work with the director, other creatives unraveling the work developing a design through sketching, painting, models and extensive research. The design process continues with costings and changes to make the vison work within the scope and producing final models, set and costume drawings for construction, fittings and rehearsals.
After that you’ll be straight onto another Black Swan project, The Eisteddfod, what’s in store with this production?
Both Endgame and The Eisteddfod’s rehearsal periods overlap, which is an exciting challenge schedule and creative wise. The Eisteddfod by Lally Katz is a highly intimate isolating play focusing on the troubled lives of brother and sister Abalone and Gerture in suburban Australia. Without any spoilers there is a reveal from the top of the show to break expectations and expose the cast. The design will heighten the characters intoxicating reality, twisting and tipping their world upside down.
You’ve been lucky enough to work with Zoe Atkinson on both Home and Boorna Waanginy - can you tell us about those experiences? I imagine it must have been incredible working on such large-scale events that are so meaningful to us as Western Australians.
I have great admiration for Zoe and her creative process as a designer and creator of work. She introduced me to the industry and extended my thinking and focus on scenography. I was a Design Intern on Home and once graduating, a Design Assistant on Boorna Waanginy. Both works explored ways of bringing Nigel’s background in spectacle together with substance and community of Western Australia, something very close to home. These projects have informed me of the importance of caring for our ecology system, respect for the traditional custodians of this precious land and understanding our history as a state and nation. Working with Zoe, I met production manager/ producer Anna Kosky and media artist Sohan Ariel Hayes. These three individuals together can create work unimaginable to others and can lead teams with purpose, ingenuity, and authenticity. They push boundaries, while always keeping focus on the quality of storytelling. They are leading Western Australian artists.
Images: Endgame Set Design by Tyler Hill and actor Geoff Kelso (photographer: Robert Frith).