Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre is presenting The Caretaker by Harold Pinter April 25 to May 7, 2017. We caught up with set and costume designer Patrick Du Wors and talked to him about how he created the mood and constructed the characters’ world.
In Conversation with Patrick Du Wors
A key part of this play is immersing the audience in the particular mood. How did you go about creating that?
There are three characters, three lost souls, who find themselves in a prison of their own making. They are in a garret in a house in Northwest London. Aston lives there and invites another lost soul, Davies, to the space. We really learn about the space through Davies reaction to it. We gather clues about the layout through how the newcomer talks about the space and I created the setting from those clues.
What kind of mood are you creating?
It’s a dangerous place. A prison in their mind. There is no escape. They are locked in psychologically. I want the set to draw the audience into that world. I wanted to convey a sense of instability. The walls are seemingly tipping over and appear to be not secure. There is a manipulation of the perspective as the walls get smaller as we get closer to the back of the stage, which imparts a sense of being trapped. The set is pivotal to the action and my approach was to amplify that aspect of psychological danger
It doesn’t feel of this world. It is a kind of dream state. We are using a lot of found materials. It adds to the notion of a space in decay
The audience is really close to the action in the Roxy. How did that impact the design?
A close audience has a bigger impact on props and costumes. It’s like high definition television in that you can’t get away with anything. You don’t have the luxury of distance.
What kinds of challenges have you been working with?
The biggest challenge is the stage itself. There aren’t any wings so designing entrances and exits is the biggest technical challenge. We are always thinking about how to do something interesting while being fiscally conservative. There always has to be visual interest. The visual storytelling has to be exciting.
How did you design the costumes to fit with the mood of the piece?
The costumes had to convey working class in the British sense. Aston is employable, an amateur builder. His brother Mick is the neighbourhood enforcer. He’s kind of a mystery. I conveyed his toughness through iconography – leather jacket and jeans. Aston was trickier because of our expectation of how a builder would dress has changed a lot since the 1960s. At that time everyone wore suits and Pinter described the character in a suit but it doesn’t work for a modern audience. People would be asking ‘Why is there a lawyer on stage?’ so we made the choice to adjust his costume for a contemporary audience.