On a rainy day last week, we got a sneak peek behind the scenes at Scenic Projects in Lowestoft. They have been making panto sets for us since 2006 and are currently making our pantomime set of Jack and the Beanstalk. And we have to tell you it is looking good!
As soon as you walk into the studio, it is pure pantomime magic! Vibrant backcloths are hung everywhere, waiting for the final glittery touches. These backcloths are a labour-intensive task taking three skilled painters on average two to three weeks to paint by hand.
It is worth it, particularly when you see the touches that are unique to the story. This year’s panto is set in Norwich, so you can spot the castle in the distance on some backcloths.
Stephen Wilson, Artistic Director, said about the design process: “The process can start as early as January with a brief and perhaps a meeting with the production team and director, and from that, I can glean the key highlights and what is exactly needed.”
Stephen then comes up with drawings of how the scenery will look, and then the team gets to work on making the vision a reality. And what a reality! We saw crooked houses, wishing wells, the dairy and even a milk float.
While the process of designing a set for a panto is not differentfrom any other set, such as musicals or dramas they must reflect the time period and the reality trying to show. Pantos give Stephen slightly more freedom with their fairytale aesthetic: “It is a bit like a children’s colouring book, I always try to bring in magic.”
According to Stephen, the opening scene is the most complex. “It tends to have the most elements and is the one that makes the biggest impression, and it is usually the longest scene as it introduces all the characters.”
Speaking about seeing the final project for the first time on stage after all the hard work, Nicholas Garrod the Managing Director at Scenic Projects, said: “I get emotional when you see the end project in the theatre. Especially when you think of everyone’s hard work that has gone into the set to create something that is just amazing for the eyes.”