20 April 2016 • Gate Theatre
Interview with the Designer: Cécile Trémolières
1. What was your impression of The Iphigenia Quartet when you first read it?
I thought it was very clever, the way each pieces was contributing to make the puzzle of a bigger, more mysterious, myth. And how, thanks to this exploded version of the myth, a contemporary audience could rely to the fundamental idea of the story: what does it mean to start a war? What type of sacrifice should be asked from the upper class before ordering the common people to go and get killed?
I felt that if Putin or Cameron had to kill their eldest daughter before bombing Syria, the state of the world would be different today. And I think that this link between now and 2500 years ago makes you think and feel about humanity in a different way, and add something mystical to how we see our world.
2. Can you tell us how you worked with all four directors to develop the design?
I think we decided pretty early on that we will create one space that will fit four plays, and not a flexible design that will change during the intervals. So it was about finding in the design what will bring these four plays together, and at the same time creating a space that could feel different for each plays. I collected the need/ thoughts each directors had and then thought about the best way to combine them. Weirdly enough, it felt less collaborative than a one to one process because the design had to be almost like the 5th play: it was the foundation on which the 4 other plays will be built on, so in a way, I had to design a set for the myth of Iphigenia, that could allow the four readings of this myth to happen. So at the end, everyone was collaborating in designing this 5th element in order for the other 4 to be linked together aesthetically. Not sure it makes sense!
3. What detail in the design for The Iphigenia Quartet are you most proud of?
I am not sure! Maybe the way the audience is integrated into the set as witness of the sacrifice to come.
4. How did you get into design?
I did not really know about design before coming to the UK to learn to speak english. I thought I wanted to be a director, but was always a bit confused in how to deal with actors. What I really wanted was to work around the ideas/concepts that was making each plays a peculiar experience for the audience. In the UK I could see that the work was a lot more collaborative (it was not just the vision of one director/author) and that the designer had the responsibility of what the actors and the space felt/looked like. It was a revelation for me! So I tried to enter in some schools, got into one, and started designing.
5. What’s the most exciting thing about being a designer? And what are the challenges?
I love designing because it forces you to think metaphorically, and in a bigger scale. It is not about the naturalistic detailed of each lines of the play, but more the overall fell of it. But in order to create this final product, you have to go trough a very detailed and practical process, which I also like. I think the most exciting thing about being a designer is that you have all the doors of the production open to you, you are needed in the rehearsal room as much as in the workshop. You are right inside the theatre as a living, empirical, art: the cost of things and the means to get where you need to are also part of your process.
For the challenges, I think it is mainly time and money. They go together I guess, but I always find that I am running out of time to truly develop a project because I have to layer several jobs at the same time in order to pay the rent. I feel that everyday is so tenuous, without any safety net, and it is hard sometimes to keep your head on your shoulder and carry on taking risks.
6. Is there a production that you wish you had been involved with?
I went to Berlin last year, and I saw a crazy production, called Untitled No. 1// An Opera by Herbert Fritsch. It was an opera without music, or a play without language. It can sounds super pretentious and German but it was just really funny and strange and I feel that theatre should be more funny and strange.
Catch The Iphigenia Quartet at the Gate Theatre, 23rd April - 21st May.