Paul Burgess trained at Motley. His practice spans set, costume, video and installation. He has designed for numerous companies and venues across the UK, ranging from Shakespeare’s Globe to Glasgow Citizens, as well as for venues in Hanoi, Islamabad, Vienna, Mumbai and New York.
He designs regularly for Deafinitely Theatre; his recent work for them includes the highly acclaimed 4.48 Psychosis. He is co-artistic director of Scale, for whom he has worked on visually-led collaborations with artists in Siberia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and artistic director of Daedalus Theatre Company, for whom he has designed and directed projects including A Place at the Table and Selfish.
He is on the committee of the Society of British Theatre Designers and the King’s Hall Trust for the Arts, and has taught at various universities, including Goldsmiths and the National College of Arts, Pakistan, as well as working widely in youth arts.
Paula Garfield, artistic director of Deafinitely Theatre, wanted an all-male production in a clinical environment, addressing the high rate of mental health issues amongst deaf people, particularly men.
The space was institutional, with grilles and drains that could be lit through and a Perspex window separating performers from audience. This was not just a visual barrier but also deadened sound, so we could adjust what non-deaf members of the audience heard. I had a lot of freedom creating projections, which mixed expressive textures and captioning.
Having initially captioned everything that wasn’t voiced (2 actors were speaking, 2 deaf) we changed to something far more fragmentary when it became clear that the acting, particularly in its use of ‘visual vernacular’, embodied the text so powerfully and articulately that it barely needed captions. The effect of this production on the audience was quite extraordinary; designing it was revelatory.
I care deeply about bringing theatre to new people and places, and engaging audience members as thinking, active individuals. Theatre can do that, it can be a profound experience, but as well as the performance, you need the right kind of space: one that allows audience and performers to meet. It’s fundamental. ”