We talked to the designer of Assata Taught Me, Frankie Bradshaw, about her designs for our upcoming production.
What is it about Assata Taught Me that excited you as a designer to take on this production?
It’s such an intriguing mixture of cultures to represent in one design – the play is set in Havana, Cuba, a place that is visually like nowhere else in the world, and then within that Assata is a African-American revolutionary hailing from Queens in New York and one of the key representatives of the Black Liberation army. Representing all those overlapping cultures within one design is a really interesting challenge.
The play is set in a Cuban home, can you give us a taste of what audiences can expect to see? What in Cuba stands out to you aesthetically?
Cuba is a wonderful, perplexing, and wild mixture of an architectural landscape, mixing grand and ornate baroque Spanish Colonial buildings, the kitschness of 50s Americana, the bright colours of the Caribbean, and the dereliction and barreness that’s come from Communist dictatorship. That manifests itself within Cuban homes as a real hotch-potch of styles, and vividly bright paintwork, within crumbling dilapidation.
You’ve worked as a designer on several productions, what kickstarted your career and what advice would you give to designers starting out?
Working as associate designer following my design training enabled me to learn a huge amount from more experienced designers on large high-profile projects. I’d advise any young designers starting out to reach out to the designers that most inspire them, and work for them in assistant and associate roles. Find mentors whose work and approach you truly admire and get their advice, and championship. From there you’ll also meet lots of lovely associate directors and producers who you can form the next generation of theatremakers with. Immerse yourself in as much art, music, performance and culture as you have time (and funds!) for, and also don’t limit yourself to just seeing theatre. And remember that however serious or chaotic it all feels, it’s important you eat and sleep properly, and give yourself some time off!
Why should audiences come and see Assata Taught Me?
We have a killer cast taking on a really brilliant new play about a truly inspiring and revolutionary woman – what’s not to like?
Assata Taught Me runs from 4–27 May. You can buy your tickets here.
Take a look at Frankie's website here.
Frankie's designer role is funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, as part of the Jerwood Young Designers Programme at the Gate Theatre.