Ryan Dawson Laight is a designer for performance. He specialises in set and costume, and his vivid creative creations span theatre, opera, cabaret and dance. Ryan studied design at the University of Brighton and he has gone on to work both nationally and internationally. He is an associate designer for Creation Theatre and an associate lecturer in theatre design at the University of Chichester. Ryan’s regular collaborators include: Chichester Festival Theatre, McOnie Company, DeNada Dance Theatre, Gary Clark Company, Le Gateau Chocolat, Deaf Men Dancing, The V&A, Sasha Regan and the Union Theatre. His work can be fun and lively yet thought provoking as it finds a platform within a broad range of contemporary and original creative outlets that covers the spectrum of live online performances.
Ryan Dawson Laight is just the kind of innovative designer to take on the challenges that Covid19 presents to our creative industries at the moment.
So Ryan, tell me, how is lock down for you?
Mostly fine, I feel lucky as I live by the sea in Brighton and I have my bike. When I need a break I just go and sit in my garden. I have also recently launched an online design workshop that has been really fun and rewarding.
Describe your current project and creative input.
I am designing Alice, A Virtual Theme Park. It’s a wonderfully innovative online production for Creation Theatre and Big Telly Theatre Company. I’ve worked with them before and it’s always a great collaboration. My role for this show involves designing all elements of what the audience sees and what the actors wear. It falls to me to make sure that the aesthetics of the piece are all in line.
Describe the importance of linking between costumes and set and text.
It’s essential that all things marry well and that one colour sits well next to another, I am obsessed with colour. The joy of designing for a piece like Alice is that you can really push the aesthetics of her world.
How do you approach a theatre project?
I always start by reading it, making notes and doing some drawing. Conversations between the director and myself are vital in the early stages to ensure we are all keyed into the same thoughts.
How do you see theatre responding to the present crisis?
I have been lucky enough to be working with three innovative companies who have all taken work online, and my virtual design workshops keep me occupied. I think it’s a fantastic up-close experience that gives the audience a whole new perspective and sense of adventure.
How is the process of design and production going so far with this project?
We are in great place, my workshop looks like ‘Wonderland’. I have been able to start employing some of my brilliant makers again and so some wonderful things are being produced.
What were the different demands of designing in lock down? Actually, I have found myself with more time to experiment in the workshop, in the beginning there were frustrations around shops not being open, but I’ve managed to work around that.
Were Covid measures required for fittings, or applications and how was this worked into character or performance?
The key is to make sure that all the actors measurements are exact and that the makers have made them to the cm. We will be packing up individual boxes full of beautiful costumes and sending them out, fittings will happen via Zoom and between the actors and myself we will make it work.
With so many new grads not having an end of year show I wonder what advice you might give budding artists or would-be designers in getting started?
Make contact with designers or makers who you admire and ask them if you can come and spend some virtual time with them or in person if the circumstances allow. We have never been more connected as a community so making contact via Instagram etc is totally acceptable. I think my top tip when entering a work room or wardrobe situation is to just be nice. Read the room, work out where you are best placed and be prepared to learn from others.
How would you like to see theatre change, post Covid?
I would like us to think more about the environment. So much money is wasted, and I think we should all be mindful of how we make that change.
Is theatre the only outlet for your creative skills?
I teach a lot, and everything centres around my passion for the theatre. My new online workshops are allowing me to pass that passion on through a number of themed backstage theatre design workshops.
For more info go to www.ryandawsonlaight.com
Alice, A Virtual Theme Park runs from 1 – 30 Aug go to www.creationtheatre.co.uk
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