Painters Palace ot Pleasure Citizens“ Theatre.
Lett. one at Prowse‘s looming. architectural Jacobean designs.
Philip Prowse‘s recent production of The Duchess ()g/‘Malfi' at the National Theatre served to consolidate his position as one of the country‘s foremost designer-directors. While reh ‘arsing fora new production at the Glasgow Citizens‘ Theatre. he spoke to Sarah l-lemmmg.
Philip Prowse is not an easy man to pin down. ()nc foot in (ilasgow and one in London. and often not to he found in either. he was spending only a few weeks at the (ilasgow (‘itizens‘ rehearsing a new production of The .S‘panis/i Baird hy Fernando de Rojas. He would say just long enough to see it open. hefore disappearing in the direction of his next production. These swift changeovers seem to he something he welcomes. together with the transient aspect of theatre productions -- a fact strangely at odds with the often monumental and timeless quality of the sets on which he stages them. ‘I like the fact that it finishes and after three weeks it vanishes. It doesn‘t hang around and emharrass you later.
We were in a tiny. dingy room. huried in the (‘itizens' Theatre. corridors away from the yociferous reds and golds of the auditorium and
foyer. On one wall a stopped clock suggested an optimistic ten to four. while a second wall was crammed top to hottom with racks of photographs of past productions: photographs he was almost unwilling to acknowledge — pegging him perhaps too firmly to his past - hut which hear testimony to the remarkahle power of his designs. Powerful they have nearly
always been. inspiring admiration.
antipathy. hut very rarely apathy.
; Over the past fifteen years that he L hasheen a co-directorand designer a at the ('itizens'. l’i'owse's ahility to
come up time and again with designs
ofstartling impact and ingenuity
have marked him out as one of the country’s most consistent. original designers. and led the National Theatre to seek him out as director and designer ofa production whose success puts him at the forefront ofa upsurge in powerful visual theatre. It was with this thought in mind.
and rememhering the intensity of the mood created yisually hy some of his recent sets —- the languour of()scar Wilde‘s A ll’mnan ()f.\'() Importance. the elegaic hitterness of Heartbreak House and stark contrasts of Mary Stuart — that l was prompted to address him first as a designer. [I is no longer how he thinks of himself. howeyer. Direction and design now always go together for him as an inseparahle identity: he no longer designs for any director other than himself(with the exception of hallet productions): ‘At first I would direct ahout one production a season. I was still doing far more design. But gradually the halance tipped and really for some time now he directed everything that I've designed myself. [don‘t really think of myselfas a designer. The design is very much secondary to what I'm doing as a director.‘ Secondary. perhaps. hut certainly
The Duches otMaltj National Theatre.
Lett. the small black
- iigure at death is a
The List 10 — 23 January 9