My aim in teaching set design to Year 12 and 13 students is to shift their thinking away from solid walls and partitions, and towards the creation of designs that define spaces and atmospheres.
In giving students exercises in set design, I have an eye to the demands of the AQA paper 6 synoptic unit. Examiners in that paper will almost always seek to find plays that pose problems in the use of the set – take, for instance, the recent use of Gallsworthy’s Strife. Here the examiners wanted the candidates to think about the points of the transition in the play: the movement from cramped and dingy interiors to a strike meeting in a wide open space. Another example was last year’s extract from Friel’s Living Quarters where the stage had to be divided between the garden and the living room.
Other problems posed have included the use of the set and design elements to create shifts in time and atmosphere in, for instance, The Glass Menagerie.