Deirdre Dwyer designs costumes and sets. She started designing with Waterford Youth Drama and Waterford Spraoi as a teenager, then studied Drama and Theatre Studies and English at UCC, graduating with a first class honours degree in 2004.
She participated as designer in the Rough Magic SEEDS artist development programme (2006-2007) during which she worked as an assistant to Alison Chitty in London and Athens on the Greek National Opera’s production of Carmen. She was awarded the first Pat Murray Bursary in 2009, which facilitated her further study at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff.
She designed for Ulysses Opera Theatre, Tinderbox, Everyman Productions, Painted Bird Productions, Rough Magic Theatre Company, Conflicted Theatre Company, Ruairí Donovan Choreography, BrokenCrow, Graffiti Theatre Company, Cheery Wild Productions, Playgroup, Big Telly Theatre Company, LAMDA, Cork Opera House, Clinic Media, MooCow Productions, Making Strange, Half/Angel and Little Red Kettle.
She is based in Cork where she is a member of BrokenCrow’s theatre ensemble.
- Nominated for Best Design at the Dublin Fringe Festival Awards 2012 for Flatpack (Ulysses Opera Theatre)
The show focuses on a group of people trapped and long since forgotten, they perform an ill-remembered, mongrel Shakespearean play and are rewarded with food from a hatch. So they perform again and again but the food doesn’t come. Ronan FitzGibbon who is the creative producer of BrokenCrow also wrote this play.
BrokenCrow are made up of an annually-renewing ensemble who carry out an ongoing creative conversation and meet up regularly to develop projects and creative ideas. I have been a member of the BrokenCrow Theatre Collective since 2012 and, as the company facilitates the development of the work of all the members, we had the opportunity to see this play through a number of drafts. Knowing the story from its first stage of development and watching the characters grow and, on occasion, change gender was a rich process.
The biggest design decision was made once the location for the performance was decided upon. The team wanted to create a more site specific feel and not to allow the audience to feel safe in the confines of an auditorium away from the action. As such we transformed the stage of the Everyman into a studio theatre where audience were allowed into the secret world behind the curtain and were trapped with the performers. This choice dictated the world of the play and allowed theatrical elements to become part of the visual language of the piece.
This gloriously paranoid rollercoaster of a play tells the story of the relationship between Peter and Agnes as they hole up in Agnes’s motel room and cope with a growing bug infestation.
The director, Frank Prendergast, and I initially leaned towards a totally naturalistic dingy motel room, complete with suspended ceiling as the ideal setting but then felt this would compress the piece and we wanted to play with the idea of what is real, what is imagined and what is performed?
As such we were happy for the audience not to forget that they were in a theatre and aimed to create a realistic room inside a more atmospheric and impressionistic space. The bugs that infest the room may be real or imagined and the idea that the walls might be staggered and untrustworthy appealed to our sense of what the play was about.
Conflicted Theatre are a very ambitious unfunded theatre company in Cork, a little company with big dreams. They took Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic American novel and dragged it by the scruff of its neck into the theatre and the 21st century Cork.
The Scarlet Letter tells the story of the adulteress Hester Prynne, publicly shamed and cast out by society. The decision to present the show in an offsite venue as a piece of immersive theatre dictated much of the design vocabulary. The Millennium Hall in Cork’s City Hall is a large glass roofed room made of concrete, wood and glass. We decided to embrace this modern aesthetic and on an incredibly tight budget attempted to transform this big empty space into a bustling town.
The team really wanted the audience to feel complicit in the making of the town so the audience started the show by laying out the 100 stools in the designated areas. The decision to make Pearl, Hester’s daughter, a puppet was made early on by Olan Wrynn, who made the most beautiful puppet that radiated the joy and mischief of the character.
The other design challenges were to make sure the audience on the same level as the performers would be able to see the action. We created wheeled platforms that could be moved through the space to give us the levels that we needed and with these we were able to direct the action throughout the space. We were very inspired by an Ireland of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s wanting the costumes to have a nostalgic but non-specific feel.
Tom Lane’s opera, featuring only Ikea product names in the libretto, was an opera in five rooms about people living with furniture.
The sound of the first half was designed to be heard three times but each time from three different perspectives, highlighting three different sound worlds. The audience were separated into three groups and directed from one room, in the CHQ building’s undercroft, to another and were met with Ikea-filled spaces with different stories in each. Then they reunited and processed upstairs for the second part to experience the final section altogether as a group.
Conor Hanratty, the director, and I spent the initial part of the design process on this site-specific piece imagining and managing the audiences experience in the best way possible. Then I began to pick strong visual themes to try to create clear pictures with the ubiquitous Ikea products that were our tools to tell the story. We managed to develop a relationship with the Ikea shop in Dublin and were delighted with their support.
Repetition was a strong feature in the music and the mass-produced nature of Ikea products meant that repeated shapes and multiples of objects became very important to the design. An unsubtle colour palate communicated zones within the space and we played with people’s familiarity with negotiating an Ikea shop throughout the piece.
I had long admired Graffiti and was excited by the prospect of both working with them and making my first show for babies. The idea of re-training my adult mind to be as open and receptive as that of a young child was an thrilling challenge.
Emilie and Síle, the co-directors, adapted the myth of the Children of Lir and facilitated a crash course in theatre for the very young during a development period. When the reduced form of the myth was presented it became clear that the visual and musical landscape would be a hugely important part of the children’s experience.
The composer and sound designer Fiona Kelleher created a wonderful sound world, which, when combined with the all encompassing environment of the performance space, created a complete world to absorb the young audience. Lead on the journey by the ever engaging actor, Úna Kirwan, they could feel both part of, and distinctly separate to, the world created.
The visual world of the play was based firmly in the natural world, one which small children are very familiar. Its elements like trees, flowers and a stream bisecting the performance area were comfortingly recognisable yet, through the use of unexpected materials and variations of scale, different enough to feel magical.