Today was my first day at Chichester Festival theatre as their Emerging Artist in Residence, which was very exciting. In contrast to the other times I had visited, everyone was busy making sets, props and setting up the stage for the theatre’s production of 40 Years On. I was introduced to the props team and was sent on a quick tour of the workshop, then it was to work.
The set for 40 Years On requires an organ which takes up most of the backdrop. So, the props department was tasked with making the pipes, quite an undertaking to have to make organ pipes without using metal. When I first arrived at the workshop I was given this collection of polystyrene tubes that had been hot wire cut onto a block. These then had to have the pipe opening cut out of the bottom, then they were sanded and a layer of undercoat was applied.
These were then painted using PVA and a metallic pigment to give them the right metal look. The problem was finding a way to lay them to dry without messing up the paint work. As you can see by the images, we managed to come up with a very creative method of balancing organ pipes in random places around the workshop.
Here’s a picture of the final set showcasing the organ.
Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo by Johan Persson
One of the most interesting things of the day was being shown the place where all the old props are kept. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of fantastic objects. This building houses everything from chairs, tables and prams to teapots, old radios and coffins! It is filled with four floors full of stuff! I dare you to walk through the building and not want to instantly take an armful of stuff that you just must have (nothing was stolen on this trip to the prop house, I promise).