10 Questions with Luke W. Robson, Set Designer

Live Lab Elevator is on from Tuesday 9 February to Saturday 13 February and celebrates some of the most exciting voices from the theatre world to inspire the next generation of theatre makers and audiences. In this brand new event four new theatre productions, handpicked by Live Theatre’s creative team, will be put centre stage alongside discussions, workshops and the 2016 launch party in this unmissable event. Book tickets

  1. What are you currently working on?
    Live Lab Elevator
  2. How did you get involved in Live Lab Elevator?

I have always loved Live Theatre productions and know people who had worked on projects with them before. Graeme Thompson (Live Theatre’s Creative Producer) and I started talking over the summer; he explained the idea for Live Lab Elevator and asked me if I would design the set.

Elevator

  1. Tell us a little bit about your previous work

I started doing a bit of set designing for short films; including a couple at the National Film & Television School. Since moving to Newcastle I have mainly done theatre design including The Pillowman and Journey’s End at Northern Stage. Last year I co-founded Plane Paper Theatre and did the set for our show Odd Shaped Balls at Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Other than set design I enjoy sculpture, painting and have recently directed a short film for Channel 4’s Random Acts scheme.

  1. What is your process for creating a set and has this been any different for Live Lab Elevator?

I would usually sit down with the director to get a feel for the production as a whole and make notes about each scene and the specifications of the venue before sketching out some initial ideas. Live Lab Elevator has been different from my other work in that the design was required to be multi-functioning and more abstract than anything I have done before which gave me a great opportunity to try out some new ideas.

  1. Tell us a bit about your Elevator set design. What themes did you want to bring out in the design?

I was interested in an industrial theme, inspired by the exposed brickwork of Live Theatre’s Main Stage. I wanted something that could be easily constructed and deconstructed to suit the needs of the artists. Live Lab is all about creative experimentation and I wanted the set to feel playful, like a huge Lego set or a game of Tetris.

Live Lab Elevator set design and model box by Luke W. Robson 

  1. What was the most challenging part of designing the set?  

The challenging part was finding the right materials and construction techniques to create the design successfully and within the budget. I wanted something that responded to the Elevator theme, in an abstract, stylised manner. The decision to use metal cubes was very important to this process as they gave me the adaptable, ethereal quality that I was looking for.

  1. What skills are necessary for a person in your position and what kind of training did you go through to become a set designer?

Communication skills are vital when you are expressing your ideas and visualising a design. It’s also important to be resourceful and pragmatic, there is no point in a fantastic design if you can’t work out how to create it. My art degree has taught me a lot about thinking creatively and how to develop imaginative concepts. Other than that I haven’t had any training at all, if you discount the Introduction to Set Design book that my mum got me for Christmas last year.

  1. What kind of input from the creative team did you get and what were the implications of the feedback on your design?

I had brilliant input from the creative team at Live Theatre; they encouraged me to be more abstract with the design and helped figure out the practicalities of construction. Together we decided to make the stage slightly smaller than originally intended, something that will better suit the needs of the artists and helped improve the overall aesthetics. We also spoke a lot about the colour scheme, the way in which we will use the projection screen and lighting effects.

  1. The set is currently being built what are you most looking forward to seeing once it’s completed?

A set design is nothing without the performers that inhabit it, so the most exciting moment for me is when I see actors interacting with the design. Live Lab Elevator has an exciting programme of theatre and I am fascinated to see how the work is performed in relation to the set, lighting, sound design and projection.

10. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do what you do? 

I would say get involved with student or amateur productions that require you to think creatively on a small scale and be resourceful. Be ambitious, if you think something will look sexy then don’t take no for an answer, and get good photos when you are done, or no-one will ever know that you bothered!

Live Lab Elevator is on from Tuesday 9 February to Saturday 13 February and celebrates some of the most exciting voices from the theatre world to inspire the next generation of theatre makers and audiences. In this brand new event four new theatre productions, handpicked by Live Theatre’s creative team, will be put centre stage alongside discussions, workshops and the 2016 launch party in this unmissable event. Find out more

To view more of Luke’s work visit his website