The Importance of Theatrical Scenery

Theatrical scenery – is that which is used as a setting for a theatrical production. Scenery may be just about anything, from a single chair to an elaborately re-created street, no matter how large or how small, whether the item was custom-made or is the genuine item, appropriated for theatrical use.

Upon hearing that the Unit 5 project in my art and design course was based around performance I struggled to link the concept to my chosen field of architecture. Seeing my peers focussing predominantly on costume design didn’t help my temporary cluelessness. I thought back to the different theatrical performances I have both been part of and watched and it suddenly came to me. Set design.

What better to focus on architectural theory on than the all important backdrops. although perhaps an easy aspect of a theatrical performance to forget, what would a performance be without its setting. As a writer, the location is one of the most crucial aspects when setting the scene, no different to a theatrical performance.

I myself have been part in a few productions, namely Romeo and Juliet. I have seen Les Miserables, The Lion King, Wicked, Book of Mormon, Cats and many more shows at the theatre. Although by no means an expert, I have seen enough shows to remember now the importance of the backdrops.

The lion king and Cats are two very interesting plays to compare, due to their feline-centred storylines. One of the king of the jungle and the other around the lion’s much loved domesticated cousin.

Just watching the very short trailers for each of the plays, the stark difference in tone, as represented within the lighting, music and the all important backdrops are significant. On the one had there is the lion king, bright, optimistic and dynamic. The story is set in the animal kingdom living in the African savannah. Cats on the other hand is more mysterious and has a darker overall atmosphere.

This really does represent the respective stories well. The lion king is set in a world where the animals rule, and the monarchs so to speak here are the lions, the main focuss of the story. This tells the audience right away what kind of world the characters exist in. One where they thrive and live without worry. The only time the scenes get darker are when there is conflict, or the antagonist, scar, is in his layer. This is basic theory of foreshadowing and setting creating atmosphere. Cats on the other world tells of the lives of the cats who live and exist in a far different world. The backstreets and alleyways of the city. Cats is a production famous for breaking the fourth wall by interacting with the audience, and in a way this makes sense. If the cast of the lion king interacted with the audience it would break that fantasy animal kingdom where seemingly humans do not even exist, or rather are no where near the events unfolding in the story. In cats there is not this problem, the story takes place amongst the underbelly of the city, where humans exist and live lives as we know ourselves to be true. If there were a plain backdrop this overall feel of each production would not be created and the story would need additional narrative through actual acting or through narration which after all would take away from the core stories being told. the scenery is a quick and easy method to create and atmosphere and make the viewing of the play a more immersive experience, ultimately making the audiences experience a smoother and more enjoyable one.


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