Alumni News July update

Rehearsal Room 2, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX
Entrance to the Exhibition is via Dock Doors (stage door for directions)
entry is free

25-30 July open daily 11.00 – 19.30 (except Sat 11.00 – 15.00)
Private View Sunday July 24th 17.00-21.00 (speeches 18.00)
***note change in opening date from 19th July

The exhibition showcases a selection of theatre designs by this year’s students  Sarah Booth, Guy Burnett, Greg Donnelly, Charlotte Espiner, Hebe George, Eva Goulakou-Zampoura, Tori Jennings, Natalie Moggeridge, Carmen Mueck, Ellan Parry, Megan Witts

Projects include  JM Synge’s Playboy of the Western World (with Conor Murphy), Brecht’s The Mother (with Paul Miller), Sheridan’s School for Scandal (with Selina Cadell), Shakespeare’s King Lear (with Simon Usher), Sarah Woolley’s Old Money (with Tim Stark & the Birkbeck student directors), Britten’s Peter Grimes (with Jonathan Munby)

if you are an alumnus, annual news (140 words max)
should be sent to
deadline was 4.7.11, but still worth sending in!

We are now gathering submissions!
Please send news or contact us if you’d like to write an article to

15 August at 10:00 – 20 August at 18:00
(Taught by Motley Alumni Sarah Paulley & Will Holt)
Scenehouse, Scotland’s new centre for performance design, has teamed up with the Arches to create a new short course in design for live performance.
Scenehouse Intro is an intensive one week summer school fusing core design skills with creative insights from leading practitioners, providing not only a gateway to further study but also a comprehensive and thorough introduction to work in the creative industries.
Students will be guided through the core skills of script analysis, working at scale, and model making, as well as exploring the role of the scenographer/designer in various styles of production – from conventional theatre to collaborative devised work and live art. On top of that, Scenehouse will be inviting guest speakers to give lectures and workshops explaining how they place imagery and visual creativity at the heart of their practice: keep an eye on the news page of the Scenehouse website for a taste of the kind of speakers involved.
For more information or to book your place, please contact Scenehouse on or call Sarah on 07711 049946


Alumni news April update

Es Devlin and Naomi Wilkinson have been selected to join 11 other designers representing the UK at the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in June, including Antony Gormley, John MacFarlane and Richard Hudson. The designs are Es Devlin’s Lady Gaga Monster Ball Tour and Naomi Wilkinson’s La Dispute for the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, and were selected by the SBTD team of curator Peter Farley, exhibition designer Sean Crowley, catalogue editors Greer Crawley and Sophie Jump, and SBTD President Richard Hudson. Visitors will also be able see Jon Bausor’s designs for Kursk by Sound&Fury at the Young Vic, as part of lighting designer Hansjörg Schmidt’s exhibit.

Paul Brown has been awarded a Golden Mask National Theatre Award in Moscow for Best Design in Music Theatre for Die Frau Ohne Schatten for the Mariinsky Theatre, which also won Best Opera Production for the team.

Kate Guinness and Lucy Read are part of the winning creative team who produced La Bohème for OperaUpClose. Having begun life at the Cock Tavern pub theatre, it transferred to the Soho Theatre and went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production last month.

A new book was been published to celebrate 40 years of scenography by Professor Ramón Lopéz Cauly, Dean of The Faculty of Arts at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. The monograph explores 27 designs with short explanatory texts, technical specifications, drawings and photos. Accompanying texts are by architect Sebastian Gray, sociologist Maria de la Luz Hurtado Merino, writer Andrea Torres Vergara and Ramón Lopéz Cauly. It was published by Ediciones ARQ in February 2009.

Our task is to translate into visual and spatial terms the author’s message, adding our own point of view and deciding how we want to reach the public.
It is the designer who dispenses the formula for creating and managing the space of fiction and so impress the viewer, bringing an extra dimension to the everyday – Ramón Lopéz Cauly

At some point I had to choose between theatre and architecture, but the development in the speciality of lighting has allowed a dialogue between both disciplines. The dual professional experience has been cyclical and has given me great satisfaction: in one way or another, theatre and architecture should seek ultimately to aspects of human existence and living. Stage lighting, as well as allowing rescue from darkness and emptiness of selectively perceived fictional characters, takes us into the dramatic realm supporting the actions and the psychological environment in which characters are involved; the concept of time can be handled freely or according to the dramatic narrative. In the field of architectural or urban, there is no ready-made script, a story or a fiction. In some cases the script is the very presence and the value of the work, in others it is the citizen and the chance encounter of the dynamics of these encounters –  Ramón Lopéz Cauly

Please email us with Alumni news for submission

Alumni news March update

Congratulations to Motley Designers exhibiting at Transformation & Revelation: UK Design for Performance 2007-2011
Venue: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama 18 March -15 April 2011

Exhibits from Motley designers include:

Elroy Ashmore, La Traviata, Icelandic Opera; Rigoletto, Clonter Opera Theatre
Sarah Bacon, Medea/Medea, The Gate/Headlong
Signe Beckmann, King Ubu, Corona La Balance at Copenhagen Opera House; Dancing at Lughnasa, Aubade Hall, Toyama, Japan
Paul Brown, Die Gezeichneten, Teatro Massimo di Palermo; Aida, Bregenz Festspiele
Paul Burgess, A Place at the Table, Daedalus Theatre Company at Camden People’s Theatre
Isabella Bywater, La Bohème, English National Opera; The Cherry Orchard, Crucible Theatre Sheffield
Cordelia Chisholm, Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama
David Collis, Wind in the Willows, Haymarket Basingstoke
Matt Deely To Stars and Beyond, Splash at Royal Festival Hall; co-designing with Kimie Nakano: Come and Go Théâtre National Populaire; Ali to Karim: A Golden Jubilee International Programme commemorating His Highness the Aga Khan’s 50th Anniversary USA tour; co-designing with Yolanda Sonnabend: Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, K-Ballet, Akasaka Act Theatre, Toyko and Romeo & Juliet, K-Ballet, Bunkamura Theatre Shibuya, Toyko
Es Devlin, Monster Ball, Haus of Gaga, World tour; Faust, Semperoper Dresden
Atlanta Duffy*, Semi Monde, Guildhall School of Music and Drama
Matt Edwards, Beyond Measure, Back and Forth Productions at York Theatre Royal Studio; BFG Harrogate Theatre
Ken Harrison, Jane Eyre, Perth Theatre
Thomasin Marshall, The Misanthrope, Young Company at The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
Miranda Melville, A Few Little Drops, Volcano Theatre Company
Dody Nash, Swanhunter, Opera North
Pip Nash, Urban Dreams, London Bubble
Fabrice Serafino, Medea, Theatre Royal Stratford East
George Souglides*, La Damnation de Faust, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Sheree Tams, Get Away, Second Glance Theatre at the Old Red Lion; West Side Story, Westminster School
Stuart Targett, L’Elisir d’Amour, British Youth opera at Piazza del Popolo, Anghiari, Tuscany; Studio La Danza does Moulin Rouge, London Pride Parade
Fiona Watt, I Am the City, Créativité sans Frontières at Chatham Historic Dockyard; The Almond and the Seahorse, Sherman Cymru
Naomi Wilkinson, La Dispute, Abbey Theatre Dublin; Peer Gynt, Barbican Theatre

*catalogue only

Huge congratulations also to Es Devlin for her appointment as Designer for the Olympic Closing Ceremony. We are so excited!

Members of the Motley Alumni Reps Group met with the Trustees of Motley Theatre Design Course in February. Our Chairman John Simpson has since emailed us to say that Motley Alumni can tell the alumni that “we are working towards a new Chapter in the life of Motley”. We hope to be able to tell you more very soon.

Help us spread the word …

Our first step in helping to save Motley is to show how essential the school is to British and international theatre. We’re writing to both those we’ve worked with who value us as designers, and our colleagues who have taught at Motley, to invite them to add a message of support. We really need these comments.  If you’d like to help, please contact us for more information, or click here to add your own comment.

Here are some of the comments we had so far:

Motley always has been, and should continue to be, one of the foremost design schools in the world. Please support it any way you can.
Hanif Kureishi, Writer

“It is vital to the ongoing health of the arts community in the world, that Motley is able to continue its inspirational work. I know that my uncle Sir John Gielgud would be writing here to put the utmost pressure on all who can assist towards its preservation.”
Maina Gielgud (Choreographer & former Artistic Director of Australian National Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet)

I am writing as one of Jocelyn Herbert’s daughters to represent her voice as she is no longer alive. She always recognised the uniqueness of this intense one year training. It is unthinkable that it should no longer exist. We as her children adamantly support the continuation of Motley.
Jenny West

The Motley sisters had an important influence on our mother, Jocelyn Herbert who was trained by them at the London Theatre School run by Michael St Denis and George Devine. Jocelyn continued to support the Motley School throughout her life as it expressed much of the values to which she aspired in her work. These values were integrity to the text and sensitivity to the environment, that scene, lighting and costume created, that bore a powerful impact on that text. It is therefore vital that the Motley school continues.
Olivia Lousada

Motley does what no other theatre design course, to my knowledge, does: in a single year it offers its students intensive exposure to working theatre practitioners, from all aspects of the business. Motley is led by designers at the peak of their game, and its success is evident in the consistent quality and expertise of its graduates. The complexities of bureaucracy and regulation must not let this invaluable resource disappear.
David Edwards, Opera Director

Over the years it has produced designers of real quality, who have a truly collaborative, highly imaginative and yet practical approach to theatre design. The fact that the course has consistently attracted as teachers and mentors successful and busy working designers is proof of the respect and high regard people working in the theatre have for the course.
Lady Deborah MacMillan

‘A small grove massacred to the last ash,
An oak with heart-rot, give away the show:
This great society is going smash,
They cannot fool us with how fast they go,
How much they cost each other and the gods.
A culture is no better than its woods.’
– W.H.Auden, ‘Bucolics’

Glyn Maxwell, Poet and Playwright

As someone from abroad who has observed and participated in the British theater for several decades I am shocked to hear of the possible demise of the Motley course. Please will some Authority Figure stand up and make themselves useful and help save this world-famous and unique design course.
Over the years Motley alumni have been at the very heart of British design and a creative beacon internationally. Dismantle this institution or let it fizzle out and something important and intrinsic will be lost and not easily replaced!

David Alden, Opera Director

The imagination and energy of the Motley School is unique. British theatre is dependent on that imagination and that energy and that combination of a proper working ethic and a rigorous high aesthetic. It cannot be underestimated how central the unique and particular conditions of the Motley way of work are to the creation of this aesthetic and ethic. Its closure would damage the metabolism of the immediate future of our theatre. – Simon Stephens, Playwright & Artistic Associate, Lyric Hammersmith

The Motley philosophy has permeated right through every aspect of Irish theatre for over thirty years. It is devastating to think that it might disappear. Frank Conway, alumnus & former Head of Design, Abbey Theatre

I have never been to Motley nor have I ever met the founders. It doesn’t matter as Irish theatre continues to benefit from the imagination and the rigour of the school. Generations of Motley-trained Irish designers have worked at the Abbey and brought with them the courage and clarity to serve the (any) play. This legacy reminds me of the importance of what we serve and how Motley should continue to empower us all in this collaborative artform.
Fiach Mac Conghail, Director of the Abbey Theatre, Ireland’s National Theatre

I was completely taken with the passion, intelligence, and commitment of the Motley students. They were clearly imaginative, talented and devoted to learning their craft and pushing forward new ideas for theatre design in the future … I hope that somehow this rare and valuable resource can be preserved.  It is unique in the field, and the theatre design community will be poorer for its absence. – Maggie Raywood, Associate Arts Professor and Costume Director, Tisch School of the Arts at NYU

The course and its students/alumni continue to have a defining influence on the theatre industry through its fierce independence and personal, rigorous approach to teaching and producing great theatre designers. The few weeks I spent working with the Motley designers whilst training as a director remain some of the most illuminating, inspiring and beneficial of my career so far. – Simon Pittman, Director & Birkbeck graduate

It is impossible to overestimate the value of Motley … The knowledge and work ethic that Motley brings is in a class of its own. I have worked with 5 Motley designers each time I have learnt about their depth of ability, their understanding of theatre and a wonderful sense of collaboration that is developed through the working practices, the fantastic quality of tutors and the across the range of top theatre practitioners that work with the Motley students. I have had the great fortune of leading the new play project, the enthusiasm of some of the top writers and directors to give their time and share their work is testament to Motley’s unique and unrivalled reputation. Motley is irreplaceable, I urge everyone who cares about the theatre to get involved in keeping Motley running. – Tim Stark, Director

Save Motley Theatre Design Course

Alison and her team have announced that they are stepping down having spent many years of hard work maintaining Motley as London’s famous independent international theatre design school. The question is if and how to carry Motley forward. The Trustees meet in January to discuss the future of the school.

Problems cited include no security of tenure at Drury Lane, fundraising, rules for student loans, immigration laws requiring academic accreditation and upgraded facilities, increased operating deficits, and a series of consultations that hasn’t yet resolved these problems.

This is to let you know about the Save Motley Theatre Design Course campaign/ discussion group for alumni and friends of Motley.

At this early stage, we can share and quantify the level of support through reaction to the news on the discussion website. A forum of comments, testimonies and suggestions from alumni, friends and professionals working in the industry will help Motley to survive.

Click here to add your comments on this site, or alternatively  join the Save Motley Theatre Design Course Facebook Page and write on the wall.

Click here to see further ways in which you can help.