Tag Archive: Sets

Set secrets

Here you can see a shot of part of the set for the Prince’s ball, taken during lighting sessions prior to the ballet’s premiere. Back in the summer, we visited the carpentry section of the Royal Opera House workshops to see the set’s construction. Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Technical Director, Paul Grace, spoke to us about what we saw.

‘Traditionally the flats for our ballets would be made out of a wooden frame, with either a plywood front or with canvas stretched across it’, explained Paul. ‘This time, however, for the Ballroom we’re using new materials.’ (Click each thumbnail below to view a larger version of the image)

‘Here you can see an alluminium frame, on top of which is a plastic sheeting called Twin Wall. It’s incredibly light and strong, and that’s key. These are big flats, and if plywood had been used they would just weigh far too much. At the top of each flat there will then be relief work similar to what you can see here, and at the side will be a wooden profile which will be painted to match.’

As we have since seen, the results are striking!

Sunday load-in

The Birmingham Royal Ballet technical department have been hard at work today, as the sets and cloths for Cinderella arrived at Birmingham Hippodrome. Joined by the venue’s own team, it was the first of many long, long days of work for everybody backstage, in preparation for the ballet’s premiere on 24 November.

Set progress

Here you can see images of two parts of the set for Cinderella’s kitchen – the sink and a cupboard both now laden with pots and pans!

John Macfarlane’s set designs

Here you can see Designer John Macfarlane working on cloths for Cinderella, in a specially recorded video diary:

David visits the stores

In David Bintley’s latest video diary, he visits Birmingham Royal Ballet’s stores. Here he has a first look at the sets for Cinderella, which have just been brought up from London.


Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of Cinderella is being crafted specifically as a touring production. As a result, all of the sets have to be easily collapsible, so that they can be loaded into trucks and transported across the country before being reassembled in a different venue, all within a few short days.

As a result, the vast flats that make up Cinderella’s kitchen are held together with a number of loose pin hinges as shown below:

Loose pin hinges

These hold the set together securely, however once the show is over the pins can be removed and the sets easily come to pieces. To help speed up the process of assembling the sets, the technical team write words at the point where two pieces of wood come together. These words are chosen at random by the technical team themselves.

Click on the thumbnails below to view a gallery of examples from the back of the Cinderella set:

PhillSteveFryMouseFizzyTrifleOuchYikesTightCrikeyPizzaChandonGeoffHiSallyDoh!GianfrancoZolaVic ReevesBob Mortimer

David explains the modelbox process

David recorded some short video diaries recently, explaining progress made on Cinderella so far. Here you can see him explaining last year’s model box presentation, complete with exclusive, previously unseen footage!

First look at Cinderella's Kitchen

Footage showing a model of Cinderella’s kitchen was included in a video introduction to the 2010-11 season, published earlier this year. In the 2-minute clip, a short shot from the original 1/25 scale model box presentation can been seen, showing the kitchen in which the heroine begins her story.

In the original presentation, in which John Macfarlane joined the Director to introduce their vision for the ballet to the Company, David said:

‘John has been quite brave in that he has deliberately designed Cinderella’s kitchen to be small. I’ve seen versions of Cinderella set in some of the largest kitchens I’ve ever seen in my life, with vast prosceniums and suchlike. But John said no, it must be credible, like a real kitchen.’

‘It was very important that there be this realism at the beginning,’ explained the designer, ‘in order to create the most effective contrast when she leaves it all behind and embarks on this magical journey.’

David has already said that the restricted space within the kitchen has informed his choreography. In a Question and Answer session conducted earlier this year, he revealed:

‘The size of the performance space then dictates what I do, and I like that kind of restraint sometimes.

‘So the ‘Seasons’ divertissements for instance are all solos. It’s hard to fill a stage with a solo, which is why in a classic ballet you have 100 people sitting around on chairs watching. In these divertissements you’ve only got one spectator – Cinderella herself. So to have the Seasons invading this small kitchen was not only an interesting idea dramatically – visually it looks beautiful – but for me it really focusses the audience’s eyes on that one single dancer.’

You can see the video clip here:

The model box presentation has proved repeatedly to be an invaluable reference point for David. While he is already creating the work in Birmingham Royal Ballet’s home studios, John’s model kitchen has allowed the Director to see just how much space he will actually have available to him when the piece finally makes it to the full stage this winter.

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