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Set designers’ model boxes to be subject of National Theatre exhibition

Soutra Gilmour's model box for National Theatre's Antigone in 2012. Photo: James Bellorini

An exhibition that takes audiences behind the scenes of how set designers develop their ideas for the stage has opened at the National Theatre.

The exhibition focuses specifically on the use of model boxes, and how designers create these scale models before translating their ideas on to a full-size stage.

The exhibition, called Playing With Scale, is free and runs in the Wolfson Gallery, next to the Olivier, until March 23.

It features model boxes from National Theatre productions, as well as archive materials including films, audio and photography.

Curator Eleanor Margolies said: “So many conversations happen around and through the model – with directors and actors, set builders and prop makers. The exquisite miniature world of the ‘final model’ is only one part of the story.

“I feel really lucky to have a glimpse into the usually hidden world of the studio, taking in early sketch models and digital 3D visualisations and look forward to sharing this with visitors to the exhibition.”

The exhibition includes two of this year’s shows, Antony and Cleopatra [1], currently running in the Olivier, and Exit the King [2], as well as the 1977 production of The Plough and the Stars, Antigone [3] from 2012 and 2011’s The Comedy of Errors [4].

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Jocelyn Herbert Archive, which holds material about stage designer Herbert, who helped design the National’s auditoria and created sets for numerous productions at the theatre.

A series of talks and events will run alongside the free exhibition. These include a talk on stories inspired by set models, a model box making workshop and an event hosted by the NT’s drawing office about drawing designs.