Finding Joy set and costume designer Carl Davies shares his design secrets and mask challenges...

How do you begin designing sets for Vamos Theatre?
Carl: I start by having some initial discussions with Rachael, our Artistic Director, about the show. She writes a scene breakdown and we talk through what her vision is for the show. This is usually enough for me to go by, as Rachael has some clear creative ideas at this stage, which are consistent with Vamos Theatre’s trademark style. From here I’m able to build a small-scale moving model of the set, making it interchangeable and adjustable for each scene. This is also where I’ll design mood boards to add more aesthetics, textures, colours, tones and feelings to the overall picture. Once Rachael and I have talked through the scale model and the mood-board, we’re able to build the actual set that will be ready for rehearsals with the cast before going on tour.  

How do you design the costumes for a Vamos Theatre show?
Carl: After the initial consultation, where scenes, set and characters are discussed, I put together mood boards for the characters. To create historical looks, you’ve got to do your research. I do mine via the internet, books, old magazines, the real character’s old photos, their stories and some of my own experiences. We create the character designs during the fittings, offering 1-4 different options per character. After this I draw up the final designs for each character, then go about sourcing or making the costumes.

What did you enjoy about working on Finding Joy?
Carl: Finding Joy is my favourite Vamos Theatre production. The story really resonates with me because of the emotional attachment and I love the period costume and music from the 1950s and modern day.

What’s unique about working with Vamos Theatre?
Carl: It’s different working for Vamos Theatre, because it really is a group effort. All the team have an input, although primarily the look and feel lies with me and Rachael. Working in mask transforms a costume far more, the mask finishes it off for a Vamos Theatre show. The actors put the mask on and it says whether it all works together or not. The masks add another layer. Props are also important because they act as visual reference, quite key in wordless mask theatre. The props are often oversized for emphasis, for example in Finding Joy, there is a toothpaste tube that is slightly bigger than normal, so people can see this. Oh, and you can’t put facial hair or glasses on masks. Believe me, I’ve tried!  

Carl Davies

You can see Finding Joy on tour now. See the full tour dates here