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Tristan & Yseult – Interview with Bill Mitchell on Designing

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Read more on Tristan & Yseult – Interview with Bill Mitchell on Designing from the Kneehigh Cookbook archive.

What were your inspirations/ideas behind the design for Tristan & Yseult?

Kernow/Cornwall is a maritime kingdom looking outward across the sea. The story has 4 sea voyages either bringing lovers together or separating them. It seemed right that the world should have a boating language. The very first version used a real ship’s mast and rigging. The world the characters are in is a dangerous violent place of warrior kings so we chose to model the look on the Mafia gangs of the 60s. we chose sharp Italian suits, sunglasses and beautiful iconic dresses.

Describe the design how will people feel?

The Tristan & Yseult set is like a nautical adventure playground.
It’s simple and uncluttered, an active space with room for enchantment. The audience needs visual room to be able to fill the story with their own imaginings.
I want people to believe they are on a boat, at a wedding party or in the club of the unloved but as in a dream they don’t know how they have got there.
What characters wear and what they hold are the visual clues to story and place.

Kneehigh’s work is organic. In rehearsal new ideas always spring up, some stick and deepen the story.

What (if anything) have you decided to change?

Kneehigh’s work is organic. In rehearsal, new ideas always spring up, some stick and deepen the story. We decided not to change the set but making the show fit a number of different venues meant that changes have happened but are hard to spot.

Could you describe how you work with the Director and the rest of the creative team?

Emma has a strong idea of the story and how she wants to tell it. She and I have worked together for a long time and share an aesthetic, an instinct for what might work and what will leap us out of the world. We also share a love of quirky real objects that tell a story.
The Kneehigh creative team is a wide experienced community of artists from many disciplines who are able to share ideas and problems. This is a rare, valuable but vital element to creating good work and you treasure it when you find it.

Interview with Bill Mitchell, June 2013.

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