concept Nov 1998


Julie Renton's first sketches for the design of The Raven King at the Banff Centre, and her comments!

wpe1.jpg (18057 bytes) I found inspiration in exploring nature of the circle, the spiral and the inherent meaning that these embody. To me they represent a sense of flow , of organic line, eternity, harmony. i was interested in using levels to give the space a flexible dynamic and by including the ramp, the flow of action can come out into the auditorium. The sets of steps on the platform represent an abstract interpretation of the classical amphitheatre, relating the action back to the audience.
wpeA.jpg (11651 bytes) The idea behind this sketch was to look at a deconstruction of the circle, the sphere which is a representation of the planet we inhabit .The circle  has been used for centuries by nearly all cultures as a solar symbol. The central dais is the core of this world, the seeing eye if you like and the four platforms divide the space to delineate four corners of the earth, and the different paths that we choose in life. The spoked wheel has historically been used extensively as an image of the sun, so i tried to incorporate this as well.
wpe15.jpg (12352 bytes) With this development. I was looking at playing with a more dynamic shape, it gives the children and adults a wide variety of movement and possibilities  for the action to flow , both in and around the set pieces. One of the important considerations in staging any production is the visual aesthetic the director and designer choose. Their choices influence the audience's perception of the production's narrative, dramatic action and music.
wpe16.jpg (18968 bytes) I have placed the ideas you have just viewed into a scaled model of our theatre, to give me an idea of what the set might look like in  three dimensional space. The image that you see upstage is a dual representation of the sun and the moon. The sun and the moon are very powerful symbols in the libretto of  The Raven King.
wpe17.jpg (9684 bytes) This idea sprang from the sun as an image source and I wanted to somehow incorporate the raven into the design. The use of  the feather as a symbol not only of the raven, but also to mimic the rays of the sun becomes the basis of the 'stone' structure for the dais where the raven holds court. The two ramps suggest separate paths which merge to a harmonious place, also they are a reflection of the differences acknowledged between the humans and the animals.
julie 6 (23753 bytes) Another important aspect   of the staging we need to consider is the placement of our instrumentalists. Normally the musicians are housed in the orchestra pit, which is usually at the front of the auditorium below the stage. The Orff instruments  the children will be playing present particular acoustic demands - we need to have the musicians on stage so the instruments can be heard and also so the children playing and singing can clearly see the conductor.
wpe19.jpg (18864 bytes) The sun is represented again by the spoked wheel. I  was interested in looking at different treatments and materials that could be used instead of a plain sphere. I liked the ideas of twisted branches evoking the natural environment within which the animals live and also a reference to the nesting habits of birds, the sense of home, place and belonging. Folklore also says that the raven was white until he stole the  sun/fire and his feathers turned black.
julie 8 (43006 bytes) The following two pages are very initial sketches where I  was playing around with shapes within the basic construct of the sphere, the curve of the earth and  the horizon and to try and find a way using these shapes to create a dynamic space for the performers to work in. I am interested in exploring the notion of creating a 'classical'  space where the action can take place that is neutral enough to not impose limitations by  the indication of a particular historical time or place.
wpe18.jpg (12188 bytes) In my research I have looked at subjects as diverse as art, architecture, cosmology, animal,solar,lunar symbolism, folklore, scenography, bird habitats, sacred sites, trying to immerse myself in the imagery and information that will act as a springboard for  creating our three dimensional world of The Raven King. These first sketches are the very initial ideas in a process that will be discussed and from them develop quite possibly into a visual aesthetic which bears little resemblance to what you see in front of you now!