Let's Talk About Sets: Becky Minto on Mark Murphy's V-TOL's Out of this World

The co-designer of Mark Murphy’s latest show, which is about to embark on a UK tour, talks us through her work on this intricate production

Out of this World is set in the mind of a woman in a medically-induced coma. This setting is achieved by bringing together stage design, projection, animation, aerial choreography, explosive special effects, high-octane soundscape and edge of the seat storytelling. All these elements have to work seamlessly together to achieve their end – which is a challenge!

I have been a stage designer for over 15 years and have collaborated with Mark Murphy previously on many projects including as his associate designer on the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games closing ceremony.

I began working with Mark last summer, planning the spacial relation of the performance space was crucial. Working on the photo shoot for the poster imagery with Mark and Alex Palmer (who is in charge of all the extensive complicated rigging) was my first insight into what the requirements of the set would be. Mark’s scripts always include strong visual ideas from the initial draft. As the storytelling develops so does the design, ideas are kept, replaced and introduced up until the last minute of the production’s creation.

Minto's set model box for Out of this World
Minto’s set model box for Out of this World

Models were vital in the development of the piece. Mark's own initial models were great for the creative team to understand the concept of the production. I then created a scale model for Mark to develop the projection content he has created, which is an integral part of the storytelling. The set needed to suggest a medical setting, create a blank canvas for the imagery reflecting Ellen's coma-induced visions and work within the trussing that would facilitate the complicated rigging systems for flying both performers and set elements.

Mark has put together a team of creatives who have all collaborated together before on productions with him and that makes for an open creative process. We work together to visualise the story from Mark’s head, it’s great to work within a team who are all exciting artists in their own right. He supports the creativity of the design and how the set, aerial elements, projection, lighting, soundscape, and costumes work to collaborate as one unit. Keeping all of those elements in his head is some feat – they are all integral elements to the storytelling of the piece.

Chris Hay (production manager) did detailed 'recces' in advance and checked our trussing and set would fit in all the venues and allow space for lighting designer Lizzie Powell to work her magic on the set also. Costume design is constantly evolving as the characters develop, are cut, or reintroduced (our costume supervisor Kylie Langford is great and very patient!).

Out Of This World has been in development with Mark for over seven years, it is special for him and that in turn makes it special for all involved in making it and for all those we hope will see it – ultimately it is a tender love story between two people. We hope the show will be unlike anything audiences have seen before and will take their breath away but moreover that they will come away reflecting on just how precious life is and what a fine line we all tread.

By Becky Minto

Out of this World begins its UK tour in Sitrling on 21 April and opens at Sadler's Wells on 1 May.