Behind the Scenes of Once in a House on Fire7th April 2012 by Martin Gibbons
While in the thick of rehearsals for our 2012 tour of Once in a House on Fire, we’d like to introduce two collaborators we are working with on this production. Lois Maskell, a North West based designer for theatre and performance, designed the set and costumes for Once… last year and is redesigning them again this time around. Lois is an intuitive designer who shares our vision for the production and sentiment for the story, so we’re thrilled to be working with her again. Thanks to the Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, this year we have also been able to recruit an Apprentice Assistant Director and are delighted to be working with Manchester University graduate, Megan Griffith. Megan is bringing insightful observations to our collaborative process and we’re really pleased to have her involved.
We were interested to hear their thoughts and feelings about the production…
What were your initial feelings about the story of Once in a House on Fire?
LOIS: Cathartic and poetic. A harrowing read, but ultimately a story of hope.
MEGAN: I found the story very moving, a real tale of overcoming adversity and strength of spirit! I really like the fact the play is set in Moss side, an area very close to where I live, but sometimes feels like a million miles away. I love plays with strong female characters, which actresses can get their teeth stuck into, and therefore the play appealed to me instantaneously!
What are your feelings about being involved in Monkeywood Theatre’s production of Once in a House on Fire?
LOIS: A privilege! The script is beautifully adapted from the book and it’s great to work with a young and brilliant theatre company such as Monkeywood.
MEGAN: I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved with an established, up and coming theatre company whose work has been of a consistently high standard, and whose values match my own. This will be my first time directing outside of the student arena, and my first theatrical tour, so I am very excited to learn as I go along!
What are your feelings about the city of Manchester?
LOIS: I remember seeing Manchester on television growing up in the south east and thinking ‘that looks like a good place to live’. I now work across the north west and visit the city as often as I can; the city’s wealth of galleries and theatres keeps me creatively stimulated and I love how it can feel small enough and big enough at the same time.
MEGAN: I adore Manchester because it has so many different sides to it. I always say that Manchester has something for everyone- infact a whole scene for everything you could imagine. Whenever you feel you have exhausted one thing, all you have to do is open your eyes and find a whole new avenue of interest to explore!
Before Once in a House on Fire…
Lois is a North West based designer for theatre and performance. Her interpretation of the performance space is realised with considered vision and imagination. Lois was shortlisted for the Linbury Prize for Stage Design 2005 and was a BBC Design Vision 2007 finalist. Recent collaborations include dreamthinkspeak, FUSE Theatre, Action Transport Theatre, COAL Theatre, Royal Exchange Manchester, Octagon Bolton, The Lowry, Lakeland Opera and work on BBC series The Mighty Boosh. Lois’ designs for dreamthinkspeak are currently on display at the V&A Museum London. She is one of 37 designers chosen to represent contemporary performance design in the UK.
Megan Marie Griffith is an aspiring theatre director, having recently graduated from The University of Manchester with a degree in Drama and Screen Studies. The first play Megan directed, This High School Movie is a Play (Gregory Burke) was performed at The Lowry Studio as part of the Shell Connections Festival, and the second, Closer (Patrick Marber) won Best Production at the Manchester In Fringe Theatre Awards. Following her production of Abigail’s Party (Mike Leigh), Megan interned with 24:7 Theatre Festival, introducing her to Manchester’s thriving theatre scene, which she is excited to become a part of.