Focus on: Design at RADA
RADA’s Technical Theatre and Stage Management (TTSM) courses give students broad, practical training in all areas that contribute to a production. Students also have the chance to take on creative and technical roles on our public productions.
While the majority of RADA public productions are designed by professional freelance designers, this term’s production of Cathy has been created by two student design co-ordinators, Anna Cierpial and Hannah Driver.
RADA’s Lead Design Tutor Alison Cartledge explains more about how we teach design skills, and the work that goes into creating these productions.
“In the first year of our FdA in TTSM, students have introductory ‘tasters’ to design skills, with sessions in CAD (computer-aided design), technical drawing, scenic art, prop-making and wardrobe. This culminates with a week-long design project based on a one-act play, producing a model box set design and costume drawings.”
A model box is a vital early stage in the design process, Alison explains: “A model box is where the designer creatively explores and discovers design ideas on a much smaller scale (usually 1:25), before sets are constructed for the stage.
With colours, textures and materials, the model box informs all the production departments. It is used in conjunction with technical drawings to be costed and constructed in the workshop; as colour matching for scenic art; as a reference for props and furniture; and to enable the lighting designer to start to work on their design.”
Students who have a strong interest and aptitude for design can advance their experience in the second year, working on Gielgud Theatre productions such as Cathy.
“The shows give students a complete, realistic view of how a production comes together. Taking on a Head of Department role allows them to explore in depth and put into practice all the responsibilities the role requires. Each role offers real challenges and problems, which need practical solutions.”
Anna Cierpial is a second year student on the FdA in TTSM and is set design co-ordinator and scenic artist for Cathy. “My work started with meetings with the director to develop design ideas for set and props. It required initial research of the play and its setting, multiple sketches and discussions, and finally a model box.”
Hannah Driver, design co-ordinator for costume on Cathy, explains how the role has helped to develop her skills: “Designing for a small-scale public production has given me the opportunity to work within time and budget constraints and alongside a professional external director, following the production’s development – from initial designs, to sourcing and altering costumes using our wardrobe resources, to seeing the final costumes on stage. The whole process has been invaluable, and I hope to carry it forward into future design work.”
Anna agrees that the practical experience has been vital: “I really enjoyed the challenge of working on a small-scale production with tight time and budget constraints, and the hands-on moments such as painting the set and deciding the final look on a day-to-day basis. It was great to work within an amazing team of people giving their all to the production. I am looking forward to similar experiences in the future.”