Entertaining Mr Sloane: Interview with Simon Kenny

Posted on 17 June 2014

Simon Kenny, the Set and Costume designer for Entertaining Mr Sloane, tells us how the words of Joe Orton inspired his amazingly chaotic set.

Orton is quite specific in his stage directions and spoken text about many aspects of the set and costumes in Entertaining Mr Sloane. With his various mentions of windows, sideboards, sweaters and crumpets, there are some definite things that must be observed, but the director and I were interested to discover how we might also present something a bit more theatrical than a straightforward, naturalistic 1960s front room.

Firstly, we were fascinated by these characters; the strangeness of their relationships and their situation. We spoke of how the play made us feel like we were studying specimens up close in a Petri dish, and of peering down at something trapped at the bottom of a well; of how we wanted to observe them.

We both felt we wanted the playing space of the set to be smaller than the stage it would be sitting on – to give a sense of an island sitting in a much bigger landscape; a microcosm; somewhere it would be hard to escape from; a house on a rubbish dump. We looked at many images of lone houses waiting to be pulled down, the last houses standing in long abandoned terraces. Despite the barren landscapes they sat in, all had clear traces of their former occupants and how they had remained homes in the most unusual circumstances.

We spent some time pondering how we might represent a house in the middle of a rubbish dump. Should the room sit atop a heap of detritus? Perhaps the walls of the house would have rubbish and old mattresses stacked up high against them? Or what if the walls of the house themselves actually became piles of accumulated rubbish and discarded furniture?

The floor space appears sparse with only the minimum of furniture, but the boundary of the room is an accumulation of junk. It’s a chaotic space full of Kath’s creature comforts and some unexplained items that might have been collected or discarded along the way, assembled in a precarious manner. Yet Kath is totally comfortable in this environment – what appears strange or nonsensical to an audience, is familiar and second nature to her. Everything has its place – every drawer, hook and cupboard has its specific purpose – and as we see through the play, the more accustomed the characters become with this environment, the more naturally they negotiate its quirks.

Brilliantly mixed among the darker aspects of the play is of course sharp comedy and a cheeky humour, so it was important to acknowledge this in the design also. Among the grubbiness and the chaos of the environment, we fondly suggest the period, with its fashionable colours and patterns, modern shapes and popular styles – with the odd surprise thrown in too.

Click on the image gallery on the right to check out more photos of the Entertaining Mr Sloane set.

Look out for a video with the Entertaining Mr Sloane Production Stage Manager, Kate Wilcox coming soon featuring a full tour of the set.

Entertaining Mr Sloane comes to the Belgrade from Thurs 3 – Sat 5 July.