Revitt’s journey on the production started with another award. Last year, she won the biennial Linbury Prize for Stage Design. Newly graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff with an MA in Design for Performance, she applied for the Linbury Prize with her portfolio and, as one of the 12 finalists, was linked up with Leeds Playhouse, which gave her and two other designers a brief for Dr Korczak’s Example.
Leeds Playhouse chose Rose’s dramatic bombed-out, rubble-strewn set concept from the three options, and with a short lead-time, this challenging, heart-warming yet bitterly realistic work set during the Holocaust was realised and staged in February 2020.
This turned out to be exceptionally fortunate timing, just before the pandemic hit and shut down theatres nationwide. The turnaround time from drawings, photos and model-box visualisation to full stage realisation was only a few weeks, galvanising all involved in the production.
‘Although it had many joyful aspects, I didn’t want to shy away from the underlying seriousness of the piece’ – designer Rose Revitt
Set in 1942 during the final days of an orphanage in the Warsaw ghetto, the true story reveals the stark choices of Polish educator and children’s author Dr Janusz Korczak, who championed the rights of young people already leading tough lives in a time of war, intolerance, hate and totalitarian rule.
The production was staged in the Bramall Rock Void, a new, contemporary, flexible space at Leeds Playhouse with exposed brick and rock walls. Revitt found it a huge inspiration for her fragmented rubble and debris-strewn world, in which the action unfolded.
This symbolic architecture helped tackle conundrums such as how to represent hundreds of children and the larger world in a design as well as introduce motifs, dolls and other objects, props and treatments to assist the narrative and humanise the characters and their situation.
“It needed a dignified response and there were many joyful aspects of the show, but I also didn’t want to shy away from the underlying destruction and seriousness of the piece,” Revitt says.
Revitt fully appreciates how lighting “can make or break both the illusion and the reality of a story and the way your set and costume designs look and work”, so collaborating closely with the lighting designer is something she thinks is “essential” and always strives for.
In this case, the lighting designer was Jane Lalljee, and Revitt found the experience “fantastic”. Revitt and Lalljee spent time meticulously crafting sinister, moody looks and rearranging shards of wood and furniture to create dramatic spikey shadows and texturing on the brick walls.
The start of Revitt’s design process always involves lots of sketching, drawings and model-box work, in which she always includes colouring and light. “Lighting definitely adds another layer of magic,” she says.
Winning The Stage Debut Award means a massive amount to Revitt in terms of “recognition for the design and all the work that went into it”.
“Having that affirmation from industry experts is amazing, especially at a time when everything has effectively vanished,” she adds.
‘Our involvement was more important than ever this year due to the challenges our industry is experiencing’ – Robe UK head of marketing Theresa Gibson
In a strange year, when everything halted in March, Revitt has new work on the horizon and is designing costumes and working as associate set designer for A Christmas Carol at London’s Bridge Theatre, with the show planned to open post-lockdown.
Other nominees for this year’s best designer category were Liam Bunster for set and costume design on The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe in London, and Andrew Exeter for lighting design on High Fidelity at the Turbine Theatre, also in London.
Theresa Gibson, head of marketing at Robe UK, says the lighting manufacturer was delighted to sponsor the best designer category for a third year.
She adds: “Our involvement was more important than ever this year due to the challenges our industry is experiencing, especially the theatre sector, which has suffered because of the pandemic. It was wonderful to have three strong nominations for best designer under such circumstances.”
For more information visit Robe’s website