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Costume and Set Designer, Anna Gardiner on Shellshock

Exclusive to Riverside Theatres from 30 July to 8 August is the highly anticipated Riverside Production Shellshock, a new heart-felt and quirky play about Gallipoli by Justin Fleming. Alison Maher from Lip Magazine caught up with the costume and set design for Shellshock, Anna Gardiner to find out more about the play, what makes her tick and gain some great advice for budding designers.

When did you realise that set and costume design was what you wanted to do?
I think it was in Year 9. I was doing a project in design and technology on costume design, and then I also found out about set design. It was kind of at this point that I realised, this is what I really get excited about.

What’s your favourite part of your job?
I think it’s the process of bringing stories to life, and seeing your ideas that come from the page, be turned into reality. You get to see them become real and then work together with a team to turn the ideas into something beautiful on the stage.

What about Shellshock; what has been your favourite part of working with this story?It’s a beautiful story, and it’s important to tell these stories about history and the past. The play actually jumps between time zones quite a bit, and so it’s interesting to see the actors move between 1915 and 2015.

A particularly interesting thing about Shellshock is that we’re making use of traditional Turkish and other shadow puppetry. This is my first foray into that. I’ve done other shows with projection and other use of shadows, but not puppetry. Luckily we have a lady called Sue Wallace who is making the shadow puppets, and she and I will be working together with them.

How would you describe the story of Shellshock?
Shellshock is about family, war, ownership, forgiveness and acceptance. It’s the story of a young Australian soldier in WWI and a tortoise who becomes a lifelong friend as a consequence of the war. The bulk of the story centres around the soldiers ancestor’s in 2015 who are the caretakers of this same tortoise who is now 100 years old, their journey to Gallipolli and what they discover there.

So why should people should watch Shellshock?
Shellshock combines a lot of different artistic influences. It’s kind of historical, kind of abstract, and there are puppets.

Apart from Shellshock, what has been your favourite production to work on?
It varies. My most successful production, and the one I found most exciting as a whole was when I did Henry V for Bell Shakespeare. I always enjoy doing Shakespeare because you get a bit more freedom with the designs. The play itself was quite difficult to put on the stage. We used a World War II setting, with kids acting out the story. These kids would make the story real on the stage using whatever they had in this bombed out shelter.

Is there a person or an artist that particularly inspires you?
I’ve always loved Gustav Klimt and Leonardo Da Vinci, all those old dudes. I also love designers out there at the moment, like Alice Babbage, and designers in film, like Catheryn Martin.

What future career plans do you have?
I just want to keep working and be as sought after as I can be. I want to work interstate, and with big companies like Sydney Theatre Company. I really just want to keep getting work.

Do you have any advice for people who are considering working in costume and set design?
Get out there and get into it. It’s a very hands on and involved job. Try to get into companies, or even independent theatre, so that you can experience what it actually is and figure out wether it’s really what you want to do. I’d say, see as much theatre as you can, but the big thing is that you actually get out and try it.

Shellshock is the third in as many shows at Riverside Theatres in 2015 to commemorate the Centenary of ANZAC. It promises to be a highly entertaining and uplifting experience for audiences of all ages!

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