Making the props

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 1

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Carl, Malcolm and Sharon in the Property Workshop are creating two large horses for the jousting scenes in the show. The horses are worn/carried by two actors, with another actor sitting on top.

    Here, Malcolm and Carl are preparing one horse to go for a fitting later in the day. They'll take the 'skeleton' horse to the rehearsal rooms to be tried on by the actors who will be using it.

    The actors who will carry the horses are different heights with different capacities for carrying loads so it's very important Carl and Malcolm adjust each prop horse to suit the individuals. To ensure the load is carried comfortably, the body of the horse contains two harnesses constructed from high-quality rucksacks.

    The actors who will sit on the horses will also need to practise being carried so they can concentrate on the acting and not worry about falling off!

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 2

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Close-up detail of the horse being made by Carl, Malcolm and Sharon in the Property Workshop.

    Armour - for both people and horses - is usually made by our Armoury team who have a machine for casting pieces of armour in a light plastic material which is then covered to look like metal. The armour here has been made by the Props team. It's moulded from plastic and then painted.

    The Props team will also cover the body of the horses in a light-weight mesh fabric which resembles chain-mail armour.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 3

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Sharon in the Property Workshop displays a source-book (Medieval Pageantry) that she and the team are using as reference as they create the prop horses which will be involved in jousting in Morte d'Arthur. The large flags covering the horses, known as 'comparisons', will be made by a costume-maker.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 4

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Mel West, Props Technician, is working on this wooden model chapel. In the show, this prop will be carried on, lit up from inside. From the designer's cardboard model (see next photo), Mel has created this delicate wooden chapel, with cut-outs for stained glass windows. His version has slightly different dimensions and a few design tweaks.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 5

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    A cardboard model of the chapel created by the production's designer, Katrina Lindsay.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 6

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Mel West (Prop Technician) working on the model chapel. There are two bulbs housed in the base which will light up the model from the inside. Here, Mel is working out how to create the stained glass effect for the windows.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 7

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Rufus McDermot (Assistant Prop Technician) built this anvil from wood. The top is covered with metal, as is the slot in the top, so the noise made when this sword is withdrawn is more authentic. There's also a speaker hidden under the box which will add further sound effects.

    Rufus received a rough specification from the production's designer and also used an anvil which is housed in our Armoury as a reference. He's given the box professional mitred corners to add extra authenticity. Next, the anvil will be painted by Steph in the Paint Shop.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 8

    25 May 2010 - Paint Shop - Morte d'Arthur

    Steph Kinsella paints the anvil and sword made by Rufus in the Prop Shop. She covered it with a layer of grey paint and then added a liquid texturiser to make the anvil look more like the real thing. Completing the paint on this prop will take no more than one day.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 9

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    John Evans, Head of Property Workshop, is working on this complex prop - it's a large box which will be carried on by an actor. When the lid is opened, the contents of the box need to rise up in a swirling cloud of mist. Unlike in a film where this special effect would be captured once, this prop needs to replicate this effect in every single performance of Morte d'Arthur.

    Here, John's working out how to achieve this effect. It could be done with hydraulics - pistons hidden in the box - but that would be too heavy. Currently, his design uses foam padding which is compressed when the box is closed, and then expands when it's opened. John admits that it's a bit sketchy at the moment and this plan could all change within the next week!

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 10

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    John Evans (Head of Property Workshop) demonstrates how the top of the prop box he's working on will be compressed when the box is closed. When the lid is opened, a tray of oysters and ice will rise up in a swirl of mist. Or at least, that's the aim. John needs to create a light-weight mechanism that won't raise the tray so sharply that the contents pop out!

    When completed, the wooden box will be covered in an off-cut of tan leather and then 'aged' to make the box looks like a 'real' object that has been in use for years.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 11

    25 May 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    In the Soft Props workshop, Maggie Atkins has created exotic animal skins made from soft fake fur fabric backed with a thin layer of leather. On the bench at the top of this photo, you can see the 'giraffe skin' she's just completing. A life-size giraffe skin would be huge so Maggie's used her artistic licence to create a baby giraffe skin instead!

    Here, she is beginning work on a 'papal indictment' (a written declaration of appointment to the position of Pope). Maggie's a specialist in calligraphy and art history so used her knowledge and reference books to create the design for the prop which was checked by the production's designer, Katrina Lindsay. The document will have printed lettering and Maggie will then hand-paint illuminated lettering on the parchment, and add a row of seals made in rubber and weighted with metal.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 12

    25 May 2010 - Paint Shop - Morte d'Arthur

    Alice Watkins (Acting Head of Scenic Art) spray-paints the back-cloth. The cloth is made from black-out fabric over black netting and has already been sprayed gold. Alice is now adding different tones to 'age' it and create texture. She tried out the effects first on a small test-panel.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 13

    25 May 2010 - Paint Shop - Morte d'Arthur

    Paul Riddle, the Paint Shop apprentice, practises creating a marble effect on a piece of wood using a sourcebook for reference. He uses a feather to paint the fine veins.

    Behind him, Joe and Lara are painting castles onto a stretch of fabric which will be made into flags and banners.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 14

    25 May 2010 - Paint Shop - Morte d'Arthur

    Joe and Lara used a template to copy repeats of this castle design onto a long stretch of fabric. They then paint the designs. The fabric will be made into banners and flags by Maggie in Props.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 15

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Carl Taylor and Malcolm Brain are adding the final touches to the two horse props. The bodies of the horses still need to be painted, and the mesh fabric over them will be coloured black for one team and gold for the other.

    Carl and Malcolm will also add the reins which have been completed by Soft Props.

    A final fitting takes place just before technical rehearsals begin and the harnesses will be fixed so they don't need to be readjusted every night.

    The Property Workshop team have also made wooden racks which will house the horses. These racks will be a secure place to store the horses backstage and the actors will step into the rack to fit themselves into the horses, rather than needing four Stage technicians to lift it onto them.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 16

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Property Workshop Apprentice Chris Simmonds adds reins to another prop horse. This one will be carried on a pole. Chris uses a gun to add hot rivets to the leatherwork, like the rivets in denim jeans.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 17

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Sharon Foley (Property Supervisor) casts ears from liquid latex to be added to a severed head she's making for the scene when Margawse is decapitated.

    Early in rehearsals, Christine Entwisle, the actor playng Margawse, had the unpleasant experience of having her head cast in plaster so the Props team can make a realistic head.

    Rachel Seal in our Wigs team is making the wig which will be fitted to the finished head. Rachel will also supply Sharon with photos and colour samples of the actor's make-up so that Sharon can paint the head to match.

    Sharon pours liquid latex into plaster casts of the ears supported in clay. The porous plaster draws liquid from the latex to form a 'skin', like the skin on custard! After an hour or so, Sharon will pour out the excess latex and peel away the latex 'ears'.

    A more modern technique for creating skins like this is to use silicone but that method is currently more than ten times more expensive.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 18

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Mel West, Prop Technican, has nearly finished the miniature chapel. His wooden model has been painted by the Scenic Art team.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 19

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Prop Technician Mel West will fit these stained glass windows to his miniature chapel prop. They are made from gel (the coloured plastic sheets placed in front of lights to change their colour), and painted to give patches of different colour. Mel created the effect of leading with permanent marker pens.

    The Props team in the theatre will need access to the inside of the chapel to maintain the bulbs and batteries so today Mel is finishing the roof which can be removed with a screwdriver.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 20

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    The miniature chapel prop will be held by an actor who will be flown in (lowered onto the stage from the roof). In case it slips from the actor's hands, Mel has added a medal base and a handle which will be attached to the actor's harness.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 21

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Rufus McDermot (Assistant Prop Technician) fits feet onto lanterns. Made in collaboration with our Lighting team, these lanterns are directional so they are blocked off on three sides and have adjustable feet so they can be angled up or down as required.

    The lanterns are powered by batteries so one of the many jobs for the Props team at the Courtyard will be recharging these before each performance.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 22

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    The finished anvil - made by Rufus McDermot and painted by Stephanie Kinsella.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 23

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Apprentrice Chris Simmonds helps John Evans (Head of Property Workshop) fix latches into the box.

    John's using plastic child-safe door-catches in the mechanism and currently isn't happy with the click these make as the top of the box is opened. Designer Katrina Lindsay has been into the Prop Shop every day and is happy with how this prop is looking so far. But John wants it to be perfect...

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 24

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    John Evans (Head of Property Workshop) tests his prop box for the hundredth time today. He's covered the box in a leather off-cut and needs to neaten the edges so the lid closes properly. When the box is used in the show, it will be pre-filled with dry-ice and it'll be fine if a little smoke oozes from the seams of the box as it's carried on.

    When John finishes tweaking the mechanism, the leather will be aged by either John or apprentice Chris - this is done by applying boot polish in different shades, then brushing and sanding it to create patches of wear-and-tear.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 25

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Rufus has bundled up 'reclaimed' wood for the scene when Guenever is about to be burned at the stake. This wood won't be burned on stage though!

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 26

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    John's oyster box will be carried on stage on top of this carved trunk. This isn't a new prop - it's being recycled and the Props team have tidied it up before it's used again.

    The trunk has been used in at least four previous RSC productions and contains a few clues to its previous incarnations. The hidden handle and latch (on the left) reveal that actors had to climb into it from the back for one show, and the handle (on the right) was used in a show where the box rose up through a trapdoor. The box was simply hoisted up by the stage technicians but the director wanted the appearance of the box to be accompanied by a loud cranking noise so the actor inside had to turn this handle to make the noise.

    Morte's director, Gregory Doran, specifically requested this box - he has an encyclopedic knowledge of our prop store. John admits it's as good as his own, and probably better!

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 27

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    Soft Props specialist Maggie Atkins has saved the company hundreds of pounds with her skilled work on these flags. The material for the flags needed to match that on the jousting horses but there wasn't much of the expensive brocade fabric left over. Maggie has stitched offcuts of the fabric together, carefully matching the pattern exactly so the finished flags will look flawless.

    The flags will be carried on long metal poles which the Scenic Art team have painted to look like wood. Metal poles are preferred because they are much lighter and also they don't bend, warp or splinter.

    The papal indictment which Maggie was working on in May will now only appear as a rolled-up scroll. She's making the scroll and the weighted seals but unfortunately won't be able to showcase her calligraphy on this prop.

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

  • Morte d'Arthur - Making the props - Photo gallery 28

    5 June 2010 - Property Workshop - Morte d'Arthur

    This bag is essential for a theatrical moment in the play. Maggie Atkins (Soft Props Technician) bought this carpenter bag from a trade supplier and lined it with this rich brocade.

    The bag is carried on by an actor and then opened to reveal the glass - full of liquid - with the plate and grapes. Maggie will now sew magnets (seen on the right of the bag here) into the fabric so that it stays securely closed.

    Despite boxes full of elegant plastic goblets available in the props store, the one used in this bag during the show will be made of glass - how many do you think will get broken...?

    Photo by Suzanne Worthington © RSC

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