RSC Associate Designer, Tom Piper shares behind-the-scenes stories from his production history.

Please note: This event took place prior to all theatre closures as productions were proceeding as planned.

On Friday 6 March we held an event for supporters of the Stitch In Time Campaign to meet RSC Associate Designer, Tom Piper. Tom is currently working with RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman on her upcoming production of The Winter’s Tale in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Tom Piper talking at Stitch In Time: Meet the Designer
Gina Print © RSC Browse and license our images

Tom gave a sneak preview of the set design for the production showing the post-fascist, Spanish-inspired set for the scenes taking place in Sicilia and the idyllic rural Northumberland setting for Bohemia. Tom also shared the concept for the most famous bear in literature, which includes one singular piece of cloth suspended in the air using several fans on the stage.

Tom gave an overview of the productions he has worked on since beginning his relationship with the RSC, explaining the role of the designer in a production and how the collaboration between a set designer, director and costume designer works.

A highlight of the presentation was his recollection of the 2006 production of the Henry VI plays, directed by Michael Boyd. Tom explained that the set design could change throughout a production’s run and used Henry VI Part II as an example. Originally, a large cage-like structure came down from the ceiling with red and white roses tangled around it, that the characters on stage would then pick to symbolise their alliance to either the House of York or the House of Lancaster. This structure would then act as a literal cage later in the performance. 

Michael Boyd’s 2006 production of Henry VI Part II
Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images

However, once the production began its run, Tom and Michael realised that the cage created an obstruction for certain seats in the audience. This required Tom and the team to think about alternatives that could be created. Tom discussed how they went through a range of different options, creating many difference pieces but eventually used a ladder instead.

Being able to hear from Tom was a real treat for our Stitch In Time supporters and acted as a big thank you for their support for the Stitch In Time Campaign.

Michael Boyd’s 2006 production of Henry VI Part II
Ellie Kurttz © RSC Browse and license our images

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