Thursday, 14 September 2017

Set design, part 2

The model box for the set has arrived!

Designer Nomi Everall has produced a scale model of the set for Sawdust. Book now to step backstage and see a new side to the circus.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Set design

 Nomi Everall has been working with clients of the national homeless charity Crisis to design Sawdust. She tells us more about the process.

I joined the Hidden Spire team just in time to attend the first read-through of the draft script and I was immediately excited by the world in which the play is set – backstage in a run-down circus that, although fraying at the seams, retains the faded remnants of its former splendour.

What captured my imagination most was the opening stage-direction which asks for the circus world to be formed live on stage by the performers, in front of the watching theatre audience, from the blank canvas of a “bare stage”. Transformation is a wonderful design challenge and from the outset I was keen that the audience would not arrive into an empty theatre space, but into a completely opposite sort of world to the circus – more ordinary, more everyday – out of which the circus could, hopefully surprisingly, be constructed.

Working with Crisis clients over five weeks of design sessions we began by thinking about the shapes, structures, colours and textures that epitomise ‘circus’ – what was essential in the visual picture for our audience to get a real sense of being backstage in a Big Top? We researched vintage and modern circuses and identified those iconic elements which most immediately place us in that world – the shape of the circular big top tent and its supporting tent poles; the prominent, curtained doorway to the circus ring; plinths and rostra emblazoned with stars and stripes; the ladders and high wires of the aerial acts; elaborate signs edged with lights; bunting and, of course, sawdust.

From there we began to work backwards – how could these circus elements emerge from a different type of place? And where or what would that different place be? We thought carefully about the opening scene, where we see characters swaddled and invisible upside down inside sleeping bags performing a surreal, almost dream-like, dance number. Where did that suggest we are when the play starts? Suggestions included a military encampment, a campsite in a field, a city street/wasteland, a shanty town. We thought practically too about how we could design and build structures that could be moved or changed by performers from one thing into another – one world hidden inside another, ready to pop-up, unfold, unfurl or be revealed. Some ingenious ideas emerged which were captured in drawings, story-boards and 3D 1:50 scale-models by the Crisis clients involved.

Inspired by their ideas, I then developed a final design in which we start from a world which is part make-shift encampment, part junk yard – a dumping ground in which our sleeping-bagged figures have made themselves tent-like homes from scrap wood and canvas. But amongst all the chaos, the elements of our Circus are there already, waiting to be hoisted up, thrown open, lit up or simply seen from a different perspective; in a different context. We hope you find the transformation as fascinating and surprising as we’ve imagined it to be and it fills you with a little bit of the wonder we all associate with going to the Circus.

Crisis clients will be involved in the building, painting, set-dressing and stage-management of this set as well as in the design process. Their imaginative ideas and hand-on hard work have been instrumental in the final set design as you will see it in the show.

Sawdust runs 11 – 14 October, 7.30pm. Tickets are £12/£10. Click here or ring 01865 263990.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Let there be light

Images from a lighting session with Crisis clients, run by Nomi Everall.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sawdust is on sale

Tickets are now available for Sawdust, the 2017 Hidden Spire show, performed 11 - 14 October, 7.30pm. Click here to find out more and book your tickets.

“I live and breathe the circus, got sawdust running through my veins…”

Viva Vintage Circus is falling on hard times. The performers – from Lena the acrobat to Samson the lion tamer and the incredible, impossible Insect Girl – have become their own kind of family, determined to see the bad times out.

What do you do when your way of life is crumbling, and you don’t have enough money to pay the lions?

Step backstage and see a new side to the circus.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Writing the 2017 script

2017's Hidden Spire show is underway: Sawdust, a story set in the seedy underbelly of a vintage circus. The script has been written by Crisis clients working alongside playwright Rowan Padmore. We asked Rowan to tell us a bit more about the process.


In April 2016 I was invited to become the writer for Hidden Spire 2017. To say I was pleased would be an understatement. I was absolutely delighted, excited and maybe - just maybe - a tiny bit scared. The previous Hidden Spire shows have been very successful, and I knew they were a hard act to follow.

We came up with a starting point to begin to explore ideas: the concept of A Beautiful Mess. We began at the end of the summer, with physical theatre workshops bringing together artists from theatre company Complicite, Crisis clients and members of the public. We then worked with Crisis clients for a fortnight offering physical workshops with Emma Webb the movement director, and writing workshops with me.

From September to March I taught a weekly play-writing class for Crisis clients where we read extracts from scripts, discussed ideas and wrote stuff. At some point in late Autumn I settled on the play being set in a circus. We looked at photos of circus acts and old posters, and began to create our own characters. We imagined the characters both onstage and off, and gave them a history and a future. We wrote dialogue and developed the relationships between them. We talked.

I then had to take the vast amount of work we had produced in class, put it together and give it shape. Some ideas receded and others jumped to the fore. I wanted to create a piece of theatre that would be entertaining and exciting and a bit weird, just like the process had been. I worried. A lot.

Eventually I came up with a script that I hope contains much of the beautiful mess of the last months. It’s set backstage in a circus big top. It’s called Sawdust. Come and see it in October.

- Rowan Padmore