Set and Match: A conversation with award-winning theatrical designer Bunny Christie

Bunny Christie National Theatre

Since graduating from Central Saint Martins in theatre design Bunny Christie has created sets for establishments such as the Donmar Warehouse, the Royal Court and the National Theatre, with which she has collaborated extensively.

In 2013 Christie’s simplistic reimagining of the world that Mark Haddon painted in his best-selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time earned her the latest of her three Olivier Awards for Best Set Design.

We spoke to the UK’s queen of production design ahead of our competition to win tickets to the National Theatre’s hit production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at London’s Guilgud Theatre.

How did you become interested in set design?
At Central Saint Martins, there was a very lively and vibrant theatre design course so I decided that working in the theatre department looked much more fun than the rather solitary life in the fine art department. I was right!

What was your big breakthrough?
In terms of scale it was designing Baby Doll at Birmingham Rep, which transferred to the National Theatre and then went onto the West End. It was great to get to work on really big stage and design, a panoramic picture with massive pieces of set flying and trucking, and very exciting to have the chance to really stretch my design muscles and imagination.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Describe the process from initial design ideas to turning them into a stage reality?
It’s very important to let your imagination fly and not worry too much about all the practical restraints – of which there are many – too early.  It’s about finding a visual world for the piece, trying to convey an atmosphere.  It’s about very sensory things – smell, memory, light, heat, texture and sound. It’s a dreamscape for the story to live in and be told.

Those ideas have to work within the restraints of the particular theatre. We have to work within a budget and technical restrictions and scale. It’s always a compromise between imagination and reality but of course great ideas can come from working within restrictions.

How important is lighting in bringing your creative vision to life?
It’s vital. I imagine my designs lit as I am designing. I worked at The Globe where there is no lighting as it is outdoors and I found it incredibly difficult. It constantly felt as though something was missing to make the scene work visually.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

What advice would you give a young set designer?
It’s important to be able to enjoy, not only the solitary work when you are actually designing and creating a world and working for very long hours inside your imagination in a very concentrated way, but also working in a team. A large part of the job is collaborating with other people and being able to convey what you want and being sensitive to the actors and director and the rest of the creative team but being able to keep the integrity of your design intact.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been very special but I think that managing to have a family and home life and keep working creatively is a pretty big achievement.

 

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Conran Italia Spring/Summer 2015 Collection

Milanese Apartment windows

Conran Italia’ is a journey through Italy, starting in the design capital of Milan, heading south through the verdant landscapes of Tuscany, then meandering past the Amalfi Coast finally arriving in Puglia, Sicily and Sardinia. 

The exclusively, curated collections include ‘Magnus Long for The Conran Shop’ Italian-made furniture, hand-blown glass, lighting and decorative accessories from Murano, feather-light Italian cashmere throws and Paola Navone monochrome serveware.

Milanese apartment study home officeMurano glass

Launching with the Milanese Apartment and Galleria, epitomising classic and modern living with an architectural sensibility. Late Spring turns to the rural vistas of Tuscany conjuring up alfresco dining in courtyard kitchens, natural materials, rustic textures and hand painted decorative accessories. High Summer then brings the playful Amalfi coastline and Puglian peninsula to life with vintage pieces, outdoor furniture, food and drink, perfect for a picnic at the beach.

This focused edit and confident way of mixing materials, colours and textures captures the spirit and imagination of ‘Conran Italia’. This joyful celebration of Italy invokes the appetising aromas of home cooking, the sound of Vespas and the languid charm of a Riva gliding along the Adriatic coast.

Milanese apartment bedroomGalleria Conran Italia

“Italian design has been wrapped up in the DNA of the Conran brand from its early days. Italian culture has influenced us since the very beginning.”

– Jasper Conran, Chairman and Creative Director of The Conran Shop

The stores will feature; a selection of curated examples of Italian design and influence by Olivetti, the eponymous manufacturer of typewriters and designed communication products; chef Jacob Kenedy’s Gelupo Gelato brand serving handcrafted authentic and limited edition ‘Conran Italia’ flavours; along with the renowned mixologist Tony Conigliaro’s Bar Termini espresso and aperitivo bar will be teaching the fine art of making and serving Italian coffee with a series of masterclasses throughout the season.

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An evening with photographer Terry O’Neill at The Conran Shop Marylebone

Terry O'Neill book

For more than fifty years, legendary photographer Terry O’Neill has captured the music world like no other. David Bowie, Elton John, Led Zepplin, Dean Martin and The Rolling Stones – to name a few.

A must-have for any music or photography fan, his new book Terry O’Neill’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Album showcases some of the most iconic and powerful music photographs of all time.

From his close friendship with The Beatles to working as Frank Sinatra’s personal photographer for more than 30 years, O’Neill’s unprecedented access to the frontline of fame in public and private is what makes this chronicle of rock ‘n’ roll history so unique.

O’Neill visits The Conran Shop Marylebone store on Wednesday 11th February 2015, to discuss his latest book and sign copies purchased on the night.

Guest list is strictly limited, to reserve your place please email rsvp@conran.com. For more information please visit our Events.

David Bowie book

Alice Cooper book

Elton John book

 

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The Conran Shop Winter Sale Continues

The Conran Shop Sale

Invest in the finest materials, craftsmanship and iconic design with our winter sale edit. Visit our London stores to receive up to 75% off clearance or browse our Sale Highlights to discover the best online buys.

 

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The Conran Shop Christmas Gift Guide 2014

Christmas 2014

The Conran Shop presents your ultimate gift guide, bringing together a covetable edit of unique, exquisite and handcrafted items from all over the world.

With an extensive selection for you to find the perfect gifts for your family and friends, you only need shop in one place. Our gift wrap service is also free of charge and we deliver your gifts to more than 60 countries worldwide. Available both in store and online.

Browse our Christmas Gift Guide 2014 and explore our online gift guides:

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Christmas Market open at The Conran Shop Marylebone

From Christmas trees and festive wreaths, to statement lighting and dazzling decorations, our Christmas Market at the Marylebone store is your one-stop destination for creating a stylish Christmas home.

Discover our Christmas Opening Hours now to plan your visit.

Christmas Terrace

Christmas Market

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Win two VIP tickets to Allen Jones’ new exhibition at The Royal Academy of Arts

Body Armour Allen Jones RA

Body Armour, 2013, Photograph. All images from Private Collection, Images courtesy of the artist © Allen Jones RA

Sharply satirical and at times provocative, British pop artist Allen Jones’ work is rooted in contemporary culture, combining painterly tradition with the iconography of city life, theatre and advertising.

In a long-overdue survey of his work at the Royal Academy of Arts, Allen Jones RA brings you iconic highlights from his long career, including rarely seen storyboards and works that reveal the astonishing range of one of our most influential living artists.

The Conran Shop, in partnership with the Royal Academy of Arts, are giving you the chance to win an exclusive VIP tour of the new Allen Jones retrospective outside of public opening hours, with breakfast for two at the Tom Dixon designed RA Grand Café.

To enter this competition, simply answer the question and submit your contact details here. Good luck!

First Step Allen Jones RA

First Step, 1966, Oil on canvas and laminated shelf. All images from Private Collection, Images courtesy of the artist © Allen Jones RA

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