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Designer Jessica Staton: ‘Sometimes I feel like a jack of all trades’

Jessica Staton

Jessica Staton was nominated in the design category of The Stage Debut Awards 2017 for Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree Theatre in London and was also a finalist for the 2017 Linbury Prize. She tells Giverny Masso about her design process…

How did you get into theatre?

I have always been around theatre – mum and dad used to be in amateur productions. The first show I went to see was King Lear when I was three months old, then I was in the local youth theatre group as a child. When I was doing AS levels and deciding what to do at uni, I had absolutely no idea. I searched through every course and theatre design was the one that appealed.

Where did you train in design?

First I did an art foundation at Craven College in Yorkshire, before going off to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where I achieved a first-class degree in design for performance. Some courses are more design based, but we did a lot of skills learning – such as scenic art and puppet-making.

How did you get involved with Extra Yarn at the Orange Tree?

I kind of got that from one of the shows I designed at uni, after which I was recommended for interview with Imogen [Bond, director]. I’d done quite a lot of kids’ theatre before, and Extra Yarn is based on a children’s picture book. I loved the illustrations and the feel of the book, and putting it on stage was about taking the feel of it and combining that with the script. I was really surprised after I was nominated for The Stage Debut Award. I’d actually been doing some model-making with Rosie [Elnile], who won the category.

How do you approach the design of a show?

Reading the script helps. I often do a breakdown of all the things from the script that have to be in there, including props and bits of the set. I like designing in model boxes, with a scale of 1:25, whereas some designers prefer designing using computer programs. I like to see the space between stuff and be able to move things around. For me, it feels more natural.

What is currently the biggest challenge in your career?

Finding out which direction I want to take. At the moment I’m happy to do both design and making – if I stopped one, I’d miss the other. But at uni they kept telling us to specialise more, and occasionally I feel a little bit like a jack of all trades.

What is your next upcoming project?

It’s a play called A Pupil at the Park Theatre in London. One slightly unusual aspect of the production is that the director and lighting designer are also called Jess, and the writer is Jesse. It’s about a disgraced former violinist who is planning to take her own life until she meets a new student and begins giving them lessons.

A Pupil runs at the Park Theatre in London from October 31 to November 24. For more details, visit parktheatre.co.uk