Interview with Set Designer Rajha Shakiry

What are you currently working on?

Aside from Mobile, I am working on The Mountaintop with Roy Alexander Weise, selected for the JMK award at the Young Vic.  Also, a re-staging of Muhammed Ali and Me by Mojisola Adebayo and also a dance piece with Vicki Igbokwe of Uchenna Dance.

How did you get involved in Mobile?

I was contacted by The Paper Birds back in January and was excited by the project, as it had many challenges and it’s very different to anything I have done before.

Tell us a little bit about your previous work

I have always been drawn to projects with a political and/or social focus in whichever genre or field, from traditional theatre productions to dance and film.

What is your process for creating a set and has this been any different for Mobile?

It started off fairly similar, by exploring the space and measuring up.  The difference has been in creating a complete audience experience, with the limited space and what’s achievable within a budget.

Tell us a bit about your Mobile design. What themes / elements did you want to bring out in the design?

The caravan had already been bought by the time I joined the team, which fed into the period and aesthetic of the piece.  Through the devising process, we explored the necessary visuals and key elements that would provide the necessary clues for the narrative.

What was the most challenging part of designing Mobile

The most challenging and exciting has definitely been the sight lines with the caravan. With each seat giving a slightly different angle.  Also, working in such an intimate space, every corner has to be accounted for.

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

I trained as a designer over 15 years ago and have since worked as a maker and designer.  Following on from my MA in scenography at Royal Central, I was able to fine tune my practice and skills.  Aside from the technical tools of design, collaboration is a key skill.  Working with The Paper Birds and The Media Workshop in realising Mobile has been a true collaboration.

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

Be open to different experiences in theatre making, not just designing.  With that you would get an appreciation and understanding of what live performance is about.


From Wednesday 8 to Sunday 26 June join us for the World Premiere of The Paper Birds new show Mobile. Step inside an ordinary looking caravan and see a treasure trove of magic and digital wizardry. Where the kettle talks, cupboards open to reveal pop up worlds and the whole caravan is transformed into our solar system.

Mobile is an intimate 40 minute show for nine people at a time. It’s the first show commissioned for Live Garden our new garden and outdoor performance space recently completed as part of our Live Works development. Presented by The Paper Birds, Mobile has its World Premiere at Live Theatre from Wednesday 8 to Sunday 26 June (Except on Friday 17 June, when Mobile goes to Blackhall Community Centre and Thursday 23 June  to Greenhills Centre, Wheatley Hill, on, both in County Durham) before going on a national tour. Find out more.

Tickets cost £10 & £8 full price and £8 & £6 concessions. To book tickets and to find out more visit www.live.org.uk or contact Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232.