The National Theater explores the “exquisite miniature world” of stage set models

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A new exhibition at the theater examines the role that scale models should play in scenography, taking as examples five productions from the last four decades.

© James Bellorini Photography

The National Theater opened an exhibition on the art of theatrical scenography, emphasizing the importance of model making in the process.

Playing with Scale: How Designers Use Set Models examines how National Theater set designers have used model boxes to help inform entire sets, and will feature original model boxes used in theater productions, archival materials, films , audio and photography.

Many of the models in the exhibit, which include miniature props and furniture, were designed by costume designer Jocelyn Herbert, who died in 2003, and have been kept in the theater archives. Others were created by various designers and artisans after 2003.

The show was hosted by Eleanor Margolies, theater writer and research fellow Jocelyn Herbert at the University of the Arts in London (UAL), and seeks to explore the “exquisite miniature world” of models, she says. The exhibition space was created by theater set designer Jemima Robinson.

Antigone, 2012, designed by Soutra Gilmour © James Bellorini Photography

The exhibition will focus on five productions designed for the National Theater, including: The Plow and the Stars, designed by Geoffrey Scott in 1977; The Comedy of Errors, conceived by Bunny Christie in 2011; Antigone, designed by Soutra Gilmour in 2012; Exit the King, designed by Anthony Ward in 2018; and Antony & Cleopatra, designed by Hildegard Bechtler in 2018.

It will also examine the theatrical space itself, in particular the main Olivier auditorium, and how the models were used to inform the vision of architect Denys Lasdun, as well as how the set designers created shows for this space.

Exit the King, 2018, designed by Anthony Ward © James Bellorini Photography

“I have looked at the models created by Jocelyn Herbert over the past two years and have become fascinated with all the different ways that the models of the sets are used in the designer’s process,” says Margolies. “So many conversations take place around and through the model, with directors and actors, set designers and props. The exquisite miniature world of the “final model” is only part of the story.

The exhibition is accompanied by a series of lectures and workshops held in December 2018 and March 2019, which includes a lecture by Margolies herself and a box model-making workshop.


Playing with Scale: How Designers Use Set Models is open now and will run until 23 March 2019 at the Wolfson Gallery, Royal National Theater, Upper Ground, Lambeth, London SE1 9PX. Free entry. For more information, head here.

The Plow and the Stars, 1977, designed by Geoffrey Scott © James Bellorini Photography
Antoine et Cléopâtre, 2018, designed by Hildegard Bechtler © James Bellorini Photography


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