Interview: Liz Ascroft, set designer for A View from the Bridge

Interview: Liz Ascroft, set designer for A View from the Bridge

Friday, 20 February 2015

Designer Liz Ascroft gives an insight into her profession and a glimpse of what to expect for A View from the Bridge, ahead of its opening at Nottingham Theatre Royal on 4 March 2015.

How did you become a designer? Where did you train?
When I was 15, I joined The Manchester Youth Theatre. The head of design at the time was a woman, I thought she was amazing. I wanted to be her. I asked her ‘How do I get to be you?’ and she told me. So, I went back to school and scraped together enough qualifications whilst doing Foundation Art and continuing with the Youth Theatre every year. I went to Wimbledon School of Art and did a BA in Theatre Design

How did you get your first job designing?
In my last year at Wimbledon, I entered an Arts Council competition, which I won. The prize was to be placed in a theatre where I could work alongside three other resident designers; I was learning the job from them, apprentice style, and being an assistant to them all whilst the Arts Council looked over my shoulder like an artistic probation officer. I did my first ‘professional’ shows in that theatre as part of my Arts Council Bursary.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career as a theatre designer?
Just do it!

How many times do you read a play before you start to think about the design?
The first time you read a play is the ONLY time you will be in a similar position to your audience. When you’ve read it once you can never NOT know what is going to happen next. When I read it for the first time I pause, a lot, to note, or draw, and to think about what I have just heard or seen or learned and how it affects what I thought I knew, or understood from before. Remembering this journey through the play for the first time is key. To not do too much, to not tell the story yourself in pictures, to not ‘show off’ with visual ‘cleverness’ or ‘inventiveness’ - serving the play is the thing. I go on to read it as many times as is necessary to know it. To know what a character might do or say in a situation that is not even in the play. To know them and the world of it like you know your family.

A View From the Bridge set design

What were the specific challenges you had to face in your approach to designing this production?
As always, to try and find the visual language that best serves the play and an atmosphere that best fits this story, told in this way, by these people, in this theatre, at this time. That’s the exciting bit of the challenge. The logistics are easier to name and as always there is a budget. For this production, there are seven different theatres that it’s playing in and those theatres are different shapes and sizes, heights and depths - plus the set has to be able to be built in six hours. And the whole production has to fit into one truck! 

View Liz Ascroft's design sketchbook for A View from the Bridge below

Follow Theatre Cloud's board A View from the Bridge: Designer's Sketchbook on Pinterest.

A View from the Bridge opened at Theatre Royal, Nottingham, where it ran from 4 to 7 March 2015. It then toured to Cheltenham, Darlington, Wolverhampton, Bradford, Coventry and Edinburgh, where it concluded on 2 May.