Our scenery is created by a team of artists, engineers and carpenters working in a warehouse in Stratford-upon-Avon.

When you come to our theatres to see a show the action takes place on a set that has been planned, drawn, crafted and constructed down to the smallest detail.

Drawing office

Before anyone can begin building the set, they need to know what to build. The show's designer will bring a concept, ideas about the kind of mood they want and picture references. They work with the Drawing Office to refine their ideas, based on practical factors such as available resources and the shape of the stage.

The Drawing Office costs up the design. They need to consider if the show will be in rep with another show – with different shows alternating so the set has to come in and out on a daily basis. Sets for shows in rep need to be easily removed and stored, and robust enough to last for all performances. All sets need to meet strict criteria for safety and sustainability. 

They work with the designer to create the model box – a 1:25 scale model of the set which is used by all the technical departments. They create drawings for every object of scenery you see on stage, showing not only what an item should look like, but also exactly how to construct it. There can be hundreds of drawings by the time the actors take to the stage.

Man wearing a hoodie sitting at a computer desk with two large screens showing designs
The Drawing Office
Photo by Sam Allard © RSC Browse and license our images

To work in the Drawing Office you need technical drawing skills, but also an understanding of the construction and engineering. To be able to draw an item and show how to make it you need a good understanding of how it fits together. They come from a range of backgrounds, often construction, engineering or architecture, but also technical theatre courses and project management.

Model of a stage with red theatre seats on three sides. A figure of a man in a suit in in the centre of a drawing room with a Christmas tree, piano and chairs
A 1:25 model of the set for Lovel's Labours' Lost (2014), designed by Simon Higlett.
Photo by Simon Higlett © RSC Browse and license our images

Man wearing red overalls operating a machine in a workshop
Scenic Engineering
Photo by Sam Allard © RSC Browse and license our images

Scenic Engineering

A team of seven engineers work with metal, doing heavy fabricating and welding to build the sets and the structure that the sets live on.

They work closely with our Drawing Office, which creates the technical drawings for the set and the automation team, which is responsible for moving pieces of scenery.

Where possible they re-use pieces of scenery, adapting them for the next show. For example the ornate metal gates used for The Magician’s Elephant were being adapted for Richard III.

Engineers have come from a range of backgrounds – as well as other theatres there are people who have worked with aircraft, blacksmithing and building satellite dishes.


As well as wood the team of nine carpenters work with plastic and canvas. They work with the props and scenic engineers, also building the substage (which supports the stage itself). Their work can be complex and delicate as they often have to work the electrical functions of a piece of scenery.

They often reuse set pieces, adapting elements of scenery from previous shows to save materials and give them a second life on stage. 

A Christmas Carol features a moving bed. The large steel mechanism was created by the scenic engineers, then the carpenters clad it to make it look like a wooden bed.

Once the carpenters have finished working on an item of scenery it goes into the Paint Shop before transferring to the theatre.

A man wearing glasses measuring out on a large curves piece of wood
Carpenter Andy Clark making scenery
Photo by Lucy Barriball © RSC Browse and license our images


Woman crouching on the floor painting, surrounded by paint pots with more on shelves behind her
The Paint Shop
Photo by Lucy Barriball © RSC Browse and license our images

Paint Shop

The Paint Shop paints, finishes and adds texture to scenery and props. Everything that goes on stage needs a treatment, or it looks wrong under the lights, in the same way that actors wear stage make-up. Our scenic artists work in the Paint Shop making affordable materials look expensive and new things look antique.

After meeting the designer and seeing the model box, the scenic artists develop the designer’s vision into something that’s affordable and sustainable. They start by producing samples of what they are going to make, for example a floor panel with a mud texture or gold paint use to look like bronze. These samples go back to the designer to be checked.

Then they apply the textures to pieces of set as they come through from carpentry and scenic engineering. From here the items are loaded onto a van and taken to the theatre to be installed.

Working in the Paint Shop involves painting and decorating on a large scale, but there are also detailed jobs - carving, sign-writing and sculpture. If a set requires a portrait of an actor to be hung on a wall then the Paint shop will create it. Scenic artists need to be skilled at drawing, painting and decorating, and often have a background in art.

Leaving the workshop

Once a piece of scenery has been constructed it will go into Carpentry for cladding, the Paint Shop for painting and finishing. From there the engineers will take it across Stratford to the theatre and install it. They will be on-call throughout technical rehearsals, the week before the show opens to audiences, to make any changes or fix any problems that come up.

Once a show has closed as much of the scenery as possible goes into stock and is recycled and goes into the store. All of the props made for a show are kept. They go into our Prop Store where they can be reused in future shows or hired out.