Choose a production you have seen during your course in which design played an important part. Discuss, in detail, the strengths and/or weaknesses of one scene or section. You will need to give reasons to justify your answer. You will need to explain in what ways the design contributed to the production. The play that I have chosen to write about is The House of Usher, based on the theatre production in the Redbridge Drama centre, on the 18th of October. The scene that I have chosen to write about is when Madeline soon dies, and Roderick decides to bury her temporarily in the tombs below the house. I was impressed with the way the actors used the set in many different ways to incorporate their needs, showing when the set acted as one thing or another and I thought that the set was particularly effective.
The set was a combination of two bamboo baskets, one behind facing towards the audience, in front of the basket there were two one meter wooden poles, with two wooden chairs on the wings of the stage. They also used the wooden poles as a window frame and stair railings, Hess was a material used for the coffin. The two bamboo baskets could be rotated or flipped at different times to represent a tomb, bed, painting frame, bath, chairs and tables.
It could be fixed into place at different levels of steepness. There are three images of the “tombs” “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The house itself is shut off from the daylight, its echoing rooms turned into spacious vaults, in which characters who never seem entirely alive. Second, Usher’s painting is of “an immensely long and rectangular vault or tunnel,” foreshadowing the third image of a tomb, the real one of Madeline’s temporary burial. Ironically, though, the one painting of his that the Narrator describes portrays a tomb, and everything is finally destroyed by the House’s collapse. Last of all they create an archway in front of the vault which was covered with copper, as was the huge iron door opening into the vault.
After setting the coffin in place, they moved aside the lid to look one more time upon Madeline Usher. At the start of the play the lights were reduced in the opening scene and throughout the whole play, so the structures were in shadow. As the play progressed, the play became more scarier; they used specific lights. When they dimmed the lights, it became more obvious that something bad was going to happen. There was also a blackout at critical times.
The back light was created by the gauze. This produced dramatic irony; when the audience knows but the people onset don’t know. After Madeline woke up in her tomb, she appeared to be very confused and angry at Roderick . When she came out of the tomb they use the poles and held it in various positions to show different parts of the house. Madeline stared to walk towards the house and held on to the poles as if they were barristers. They make it seem as if it is first a staircase, then a railing, then they held it parallel to make it look like a corridor and balcony.
When she soon appears in front of Roderick , the lighting has then become very dim and this technique shows us that Madeline has appeared out of nowhere, which causes us to be scared and anxious due to the fact that the lights have create a horror effect. When the lights go back up to their original simple lightning, Madeline disappears instantly; which is another scary moment because the lights create more suspense. This causes more tension to build.
The structures were very effective but many other elements of design were used to increase their effectiveness. Madeline’s costume was a frilly dress, to show it that the play was set in the 1920’s, and it was also appropriate to the time set. The character’s costume stayed the same throughout the play. Black, white, grey and brown. These colours contrast that there is nothing pure about the situation. They wore costume appropriate to the set. The white frilly dress that Madeline wore symbolises that she is pure and the blue shows sadness, down and depressed. The doctor wears brown trousers, and a white top, this shows that he is more ordinary.
The costume depicted the time period. Madeline also had a Crimson red blanket which could be used as a towel, dress and a blanket. This suggests horror and the blanket symbolises a reminder of the lady a face of death. Sound also played its part, with a heartbeat effect, this caused fear and tension. Also the breaking of the doors, this was like a mysterious sound. When they used wooden frames to create a window, they would create rain and thunder sounds to show that they are looking outside and the horrible weather symbolises that there is no hope for them. It is a hostile place to live in.