Magazine

Archive: Michael Scott-Mitchell

Date posted: 18 Aug 2015Author: STC Production: Arcadia, Arms and the Man

Michael Scott-Mitchell has been designing sets and costumes for STC since 1986, with over 30 productions under his belt. In between theatre gigs, he also works as a designer and architect on jobs including the Rockpool restaurant and the Sydney Olympics cauldron. In this gallery of images, we look back at a selection of his work for STC and pick up some of his memories of working at STC along the way. Enjoy.

 

MIXED DOUBLES (1986)

As Michael recalls, "My first show at STC was Mixed Doubles. It was six 40-minute shows presented in double bills that did a kind of leapfrogging process – one dropped out and another one slotted in – over the course of four months. It took me about a year to get the six of them up and running."

Pictured are Victoria Longley and Deidre Rubinstein in Suddenly Last Summer; Gillian Jones in The Don’s Last Innings; Robert Grubb and Rhys McConnochie in Potty Ploy; Victoria Longley and Bruce Spence in Seduced; Bruce Spence and Victoria Longley in Tom Thumb the Great; Alan David Lee and Julie Nihill in Family Favourites. (Photos: Hugh Hamilton)

 

KING OF COUNTRY (1986)

"This was the second show I did with Wayne Harrison [STC Artistic Director 1990 - 1999]. The band was placed on the back of a truck. The car you can see there was a working electric car. And the back wall was full of light up signs. One of those signs is in the STC workshop still … it spells out Paradise."  (Photo: Sandy Edwards)

 

NO(H) EXIT (1987)

"I think this was the first piece I worked on with Richard Wherrett [STC Artistic Director 1979 - 1990], the first of many, many shows. He rejected my first design, which I was outraged at. I went off and ended up with a much better design, which we used to laugh at later."

Pictured are Heather Mitchell, Graham Harvey and Nell Schofield (Photo: Hugh Hamilton)

 

TOM AND VIV (1987)

"That was the costume change show from hell. Ruth Cracknell and Robyn Nevin both had several costumes in this production and when they'd pass me in the corridor they'd say quietly, 'Oh, I hear Ruth/Robyn has a costume change there. Maybe I need another costume too?' By the end of it, Robyn was literally running offstage to change and running back on again."

Pictured are Geoff Morrell, Ruth Cracknell and Barry Otto. (Photo: Branco Gaica)

 

ROME TREMBLE (1990)

"The fresco was based on Titian's 'Assumption of the Virgin'. The play was about Maria Callas and, as a show, it was effectively like trying to fit an opera into Wharf 1. It was amazing that we got as many scenery pieces in there as we did."

Pictured are John Paramor, Wendy de Waal and John Pantelis. (Photo: Sandy Edwards)

 

 

THE TRACKERS OF OXYRHYNCHUS (1992)

"That set destroyed the air conditioning in Wharf 1. There was red earth and the entire air conditioning system had to be replaced after the run of the show. I think that was the last time red earth was allowed in Wharf 1."

Pictured is Kate Fitzpatrick. (Photo: Robert McFarlane)

 

DEAD FUNNY (1995)

"This was the first show I did with director Simon Phillips. And the second show I did with lighting designer Nick Schlieper. We had done an opera some time earlier, directed by Louis Nowra, at The Lighthouse, but Nick and I then went on to do a lot of shows together. At last count it was at about 50."

Pictured are Jamie Jackson, Douglas Hedge and Imelda Corcoran. (Photo: Robert McFarlane)

 

LES PARENTS TERRIBLES (1995)

"My first Drama Theatre show. Richard Wherrett wouldn't allow young designers to work on shows on the big stages until he thought you were ready. So, it took me 9 years to graduate to the Drama Theatre."

Pictured are Daniel Lapaine and Veronica Neave. (Photos: Robert McFarlane)

 

THE LIFE OF GALILEO (1996)

"The set was a bit like a piece of machinery. Marcus Kelson, who was the STC's Technical Manager, would sit in the Drama Theatre and just run the show cues because he loved watching it so much."

Pictured are Teo Gebert, John Howard and Luciano Martucci. (Photo: Tracey Schramm)

 

AS YOU LIKE IT (1996)

"The colour scheme for that set became the colour scheme for my wedding. For instance, the orange there was the colour of the invitations." (Photo: Philip le Masurier)

 

PYGMALION (1997)

"Oh God, this was an emergency design. I only had six days!"

Pictured are Anita Hegh and Luciano Martucci. (Photo: Tracey Schramm)

 

A DELICATE BALANCE (1998)

"Another show with director Simon Phillips. In the end, the entire room you see there cracked open and split apart."

Pictured in the second image are Heather Mitchell, Maggie Kirkpatrick, Jane Harders and Dinah Shearing. (Photos: Tracey Schramm)

 

MAJOR BARBARA (2003)

"Like Arms and the Man, it's a George Bernard Shaw play. It was on at the then new NIDA theatre, the first show from outside NIDA to go in there. Unfortunately, I don't think it had the necessary seating capacity to make it workable for STC." (Photo: Heidrun Löhr) 

 

AMIGOS (2004)

"David Williamson's plays can be quite cinematic in that they jump around to different locations, so they can be challenging to design for. But I was quite happy with that in the end." (Photo: Tracey Schramm)

 

YING TONG (2007) & TRAVESTIES (2009)

"These were the first two shows that I did with Richard Cottrell (director of Arms and the Man). The set for Travesties was a revolve that spun around, so those two different rooms are simply the opposite sides of the same wall." 

Pictured are Jonathan Biggins and Toby Schmitz in Travesties. (Photos: Heidrun Löhr)

 

ELLING (2009)

Pictured is Darren Gilshenan in Elling, directed by Pamela Rabe, designed by Michael. (Photo: Tracey Schramm)

 

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (2010)

"This production toured to Portland, USA. I was really happy with the design, but I don't think anyone noticed what I'd hoped they would. When I asked people what they thought of the movements of the walls, they said 'What movement?' Because they were moving so slowly over the course of the whole show, you couldn't tell. But [as you can see in the photos below] the overall shape of the stage was significantly different between beginning and end." (Photos: Brett Boardman)

 

HONOUR (2010) & SWITZERLAND (2014)

"Architecturally, the Honour set drew on the house I grew up in, which my father designed. Switzerland's set, though it was very much based on Patricia Highsmith's home, actually drew on my parents' next home, which had a very similar aesthetic."

Pictured are Paula Arundell and William Zappa in Honour, and Eamon Farren and Sarah Peirse in Switzerland. (Photos: Brett Boardman)

 

STORM BOY (2013 & 2015)

"My practice has become more influenced by computers lately, which allows the creation of very organic shapes. We still make physical models but the early renders of this set and the calculations involved in the making of all those ribs would have been impossible without a computer being involved." (Photo: Brett Boardman)

 

Arms and the Man, 14 Sep – 31 Oct 2015, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Arcadia, 8 Feb – 2 Apr 2016, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House

 

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