Colin Richmond

Hello all.

This week, we are beyond thrilled to be interviewing the incredibly talented, award winning set designer Colin Richmond.

I am a theatre designer designing sets and costumes for various theatrical productions across the country. Originally from Ballymoney in the north of Ireland, I currently live in south east London where I also have a shared studio.

How, and where are you today?

I’m currently in my studio working, but have just arrived in off a flight from Edinburgh where I was starting off the design process for ‘The Lieutenant of Inishmore’ which is being produced at the Royal Lyceum Theatre. I was there for the most of today and all of yesterday. You currently find me in very sound mind, a little weary from travel but happy to have started off rehearsals and the whole process on this particular production.

(Animal Farm, West Yorkshire Playhouse)

How would you describe the journey that has brought you to this place? And was this the destination you had in mind?

The journey that brought me to the place I am now in has been a pretty varied one.

I studied Theatre Design for three years starting in 2000 and graduating with a first class BA hons in 2003. I was a Linbury Theatre Design prize finalist at the age of 21 and from there went to assist as a designer at the RSC for a year who I eventually designed a show for. My work has lead me to places such as Tuscany, but mostly roots me to the British Isles for the moment, working in Scotland, Wales and England for the most. I’ve been lucky in that I have worked with many varied people in terms of directors, actors, lighting designers, stage managers, scenery builders, prop makers, costume makers, supervisors. A wonderful bunch of people with highly skilled jobs who help steer your designs from your head, onto the stage and in front of an audience. It has been a fantastic journey so far, long may it continue and progress, and get even more varied and exciting.

(Dancing at Lughnasa, Birmingham Rep)

It’s completely the destination I had in mind, if even I had one – I can’t remember. I remember making a motto when I left college – To try to be the best I can be at what I do, and as successful as I’m comfortable with, and well respected.

It’s something I’ve tried to hold onto at all times. I love my job, I’m happy to be continually working – a blessing in these times.

Do you have a process to ensure you are in the right frame of mind to create?

It’s hard to get into a frame of mind. A lot of my job is about deadlines. As we all know, it’s impossible to be creative all the time and force yourself to have ideas. The best ideas are the ones that come to you when you’re washing the dishes or hoovering, doing the most mind numbing tasks. I find watching children’s TV and trash telly totally brilliant to relax the mind – you often find the mind wanders into completely cool places at those times. Over the years, however, I have learned that exercising is good – getting out of the same space as your work is good to get you focused – and setting deadlines for yourself and keeping lists you can cross off is also good. We can’t force creativity but sometimes we have to. It’s whatever suits you.

(BAC)

How do you think your background and culture influences your creations?

My work is so varied in the environments I create that it really stems from a text point of view, or indeed from a score, music etc. I do however think that growing up in the north of Ireland on a farm had a great deal to do with finding out who I was creatively as a child. My father (as well as being a farmer) is a trained carpenter, and, although I am useless with a drill or saw, I envied and aspired to be as good as he was. Even if I couldn’t, then I at least wanted to understand his skills. This now helps in working with builders who build my sets. It’s so important to understand other peoples jobs and skills.

The northern Irish are the best at talking themselves down. I am my own worst critic which makes me doubt, and double doubt, my work constantly. Some say this can be bad, I think it’s good – if not a tad annoying for myself. At times it means the end product is harder to achieve for myself, but sometimes the battle is worth it. My back ground and culture has played a massive part in who I am and what I do. In addition to trying to bash pieces of wood together in my dads workshop, as children we would be constantly inventing with the neighbours – inventing stage shows on the big trailers in the back yard, doing light shows at halloween with torches behind bed sheets, endlessly creating entertainment when the TV wasn’t enough. It was a great world for exploring the mind. I sometimes wish I could be that naive again.

(Sweeney Todd, Dundee Rep)

What does beauty mean to you?

I’m not sure beauty is something I can describe. It’s a number of things perhaps. In an aesthetic form, it’s the way something makes you feel in your gut – your heart. In the same way that the most perfectly beautiful thing is formed by someone or something through it’s heart and gut instincts, I think through that thing of beauty those things are then relayed to you. Beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder though as well. The beauty of someones soul is often a soul that connects to yours, the beauty of their eyes means you find something in them that can make you lose yourself for a while. There are so many types of beauty, but for me, it’s how something, someone, or an idea, makes me feel. It’s a warm fluffy feeling that takes you to that happy place.

If we had interviewed you when you were 11, what would you have told us you wanted to be when you grew up?

I’d probably have told you I wanted to be an actor. or James Galway (the flautist) or a fashion designer, or a pilot. I was keeping my options open I guess.

What advice have you received that you want everyone to benefit from?

An actress once told me that nothing is forever when I told her I was embarking on a certain little venture in my life. I took it on in so many levels in relation to that situation, but also in relation to other situations – and it can apply to so many things. Sometimes in life we want things to be forever, like, friendships, certain relationships, shows, events, nights of sleep!, time spent with friends and family and loved ones etc, but I guess the hard thing is that all these come to an end at some point, perhaps they are cut short, they come to a natural end, it’s all part of moving on and moving to the next thing whether it be in this life (or the next) – life’s natural process. I think it’s a happy thing. I do hope some things are forever though. We can always hope.

Thank you Colin. Thank you for making the theatre a beautiful place to be. You really are a gem. And now you’re our very own handsome and pretty gem!

handsome and pretty

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