Building the incredible sets for the Stamford Shakespeare Company’s annual summer season of plays is no easy task, as Theatre Manager David Fensom reveals...
Dannie Carlton has been the set builder for the Stamford Shakespeare Company for the past 17 years, having originally came to Tolethorpe in 1998 as the Site Agent building the Orangery. He obviously made a very good impression, as the following year the Artistic Director, Jean Harley, asked him to come back to build her set for King John. Dannie was working for E Bowman & Sons at the time and would call in whenever he had spare time at the weekend to construct the two castles required for the play. Helping him was his son Nick – and this was the beginning of a wonderful working relationship with the Company.
From 2000 onwards the father/ son partnership has been responsible for constructing the sets for all three plays each year at the Rutland Open Air Theatre. Over the years they have created countless amazing and diverse sets, including an elegant Art Deco hotel, a Victorian gypsy encampment, 40BC Rome, a 1950s Italian cafe, a Venetian palace, the church hall from Dad’s Army, and dozens of castles, houses, ponds and gnarled trees. Dannie’s favourite set was for the 2001 production of Romeo & Juliet. He is particularly proud that a picture of the set was published in the letters page of The Times, when a patron, watching the show, was so impressed he took a photo of the stage and sent it in to the newspaper.
Each play director designs their own set and builds a model of it for Dannie and Nick to work from. Building usually commences in January (depending on the weather). Sets are painted and dressed during April and May, ready for the season opening in June. It has been known for work on sets to continue after the opening night, such is the amount that needs to be done. The complexity of the sets has grown over the years and so too has the size. Around £16,000 worth of timber is bought in to construct the sets. Some are so large they have been built on steel girder frames and can weigh up to three tonnes.
Simon Godfrey joined the team last year, helping to build the sets for The Tempest and The Wind in the Willows, and from this year takes over from Dannie, who has decided to retire. Simon is relishing the challenge and is already hard at work building the set for this year’s production of Much Ado About Nothing!
The booking line is open for this summer’s season of plays, which are
■ A Midsummer Night’s Dream
■ Much Ado About Nothing
■ Hobson’s Choice
Box office: 01780 756133 For more information and to book online www.stamfordshakespeare.co.uk