Theatre News

Let’s Talk About Sets: Georgia Lowe on Yen

We talk to the designer of Anna Jordan’s Bruntwood Prize-winning play

Yen centres around two boys who have been left to fend for themselves in a council flat in Feltham. They are living in one room of a flat with very little other than porn and computer games to amuse themselves. In the next room lives their dog Taliban who they've been forced to lock up after he bit a girl on the estate. Every now and again they look out the window but they are basically trapped within this world, until a girl from Wales barges into their flat one day and changes everything.

In many ways the set is an empty space. It’s been created as a playground for the actors and consists of two climbing frames at either end, a sofa bed, an armchair and lots and lots of lights. When the director Ned Bennett and I first began talking about the design, we decided we wanted to create a space that functioned as if from the boys’ perspective. We didn’t want to create a naturalistic sitting room with all the associated details, but instead wanted to create a place which would channel the boys’ energy.

The audience face each other across the space and are delineated by a row of lights, this was very much about a sense of enclosure. We wanted the audience to feel as if they were somehow inside the boys' territory.

Although the dialogue of the play is primarily naturalistic, the design taps into the abstracted world that perhaps is more alive in the computer games the boys play. The boys' games controllers tether them, like umbilical cords, with thick black rope to the huge plasma screen that dominates one side of the space. They are free to climb the walls, and hang from a keyboard that doubles as a swing. We wanted to tap into a sort of unpredictable, erratic lost boys feel.

Although the majority of the play takes place within this one room, there are three other locations in the play, one being Hounslow Heath. We decided to stage these incredibly simply, by stripping the space of anything related to the flat. Although we had originally wanted to fly everything out, this wasn't practical and so a bit of creative thinking needed to take place so that it didn't just feel like a big scene change!

I’ve worked with Ned and the rest of the creative team many times before and it's always an incredibly collaborative process. We spend a huge amount of time interrogating the play, working with the model and talking, The rest of the creative team (Elliot Griggs, Giles Thomas & Polly Bennett) also get involved in design chats at early stages as every element is crucial to make the design function. Creating the set was a really satisfying process because of that.

– Georgia Lowe

Yen runs at the Royal Court from 25 January until 13 February.