Putting the Nation on Stage

Meet the Designer : Jonathan Hindmarsh

February 21, 2019

We spoke to the fabulous set and costume designer Jonathan Hindmarsh about his work on our upcoming production of Grounded. NTofP worked with Jonathan on the set of THE GIRL / THE WOMAN in 2018.

What attracted you to Grounded?

George Brant’s lyricism was what initially attracted me to this play. The subject matter of Grounded is both deeply personal as well as strongly political but it’s the epic poetic quality to the writing that is so arresting and makes this such a powerful and compelling piece of theatre.

I think audiences will find this play unexpectedly funny, moving and thought provoking.

Grounded  gives the very real, deeply tragic consequences of war an immediate and personal resonance, which I think is so important in a time when modern warfare is increasingly dehumanised, especially for those of us in western countries when it is often possible to turn a blind eye to events happening overseas.

How did you get started off as a designer?
In 2015 I graduated the Bachelor of Dramatic Arts in Design for Performance at NIDA. Once graduating I plunged straight into the world of independent theatre and have been working ever since.

When you read the script, did you have an instinctive response to it, specifically in terms of how you wanted the set to look?

I had quite an instinctive response when I first read Grounded. On first reading of the script for Grounded, I was interested in the impact that the unnamed female fight pilot’s physical environment – amongst other things – had on her psychological state. The “big blue” of the sky and, to an extent, the long drives through the desert provide the Pilot with a sense of freedom, whilst the air-conditioned, windowless trailer from which she operates the drones and her domestic home life become increasingly claustrophobic, high pressured environments for her. Rather than trying to create a specific time or place for the play,

I was drawn more to the idea of creating an abstract space that with the support of light and sound design could respond to the psychological shifts that the Pilot experiences.

What research did you do for the set and costume in Grounded? What has been your starting point?

I respond strongly to visual stimuli, so after I had read everything I could get my hands on about drone pilots and modern warfare, my starting point in this design process was to research the kind of physical spaces that Grounded refers to. I watched point of view videos of fight pilots in flight, I collected photos of the desert landscape around Las Vegas, I watched videos of drone pilots carrying out missions and was struck by the common sense of space and infinite expanse that is present in aerial photography as well as desert landscapes.

In wanting to capture a sense of this space and expanse in the design, I also drew inspiration from the large scale installation art works by the likes of Olafur Eliasson, James Turrell and Doug Wheeler. In different way, each of these artists use light and space to create visceral, experiential works that evoke a mood rather that often exists beyond a fixed sense of time or place, which was what I have been keen to achieve for Grounded.

What are you most excited about working on this production?

It’s a perfect storm of a beautiful piece of writing performed by a wonderfully talented actor, directed by the brilliant Dom Mercer as part of the 2019 NTofP season – what’s not to be excited about?

This is my first time working with Dom but we’ve known each other for many years so it’s fantastic to finally have the opportunity to work together.

What is your relation/connection to Western Sydney? Have you worked or lived in Western Sydney before?

I was born, raised and educated in Western Sydney, specifically near Liverpool. This is the second production I’ve designed for the National Theatre of Parramatta, the first being The Girl The Woman in 2018.

The first professional play I ever saw (aside from the big musicals that I would go to with my mother) was a production of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at Riverside Theatre back in 1997. It’s wonderful to be back in Parramatta making theatre in the same space that inspired me so much when I was a teenager.

BOOK NOW Grounded  14 – 23 March 2019

Jonathan Hindmarsh

Jonathan is an Australian-based production designer. He graduated from the NIDA Bachelor of Dramatic Arts in 2015 and prior to that completed a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre at UNSW. He is the recipient of the 2018 Sydney Theatre Award for Best Costume Design of an Independent Production for Metamorphoses.

Jonathan’s recent design work includes the set and props for Brisbane Festival’s I’ve Been Meaning to Ask You (The Good Room 2018), set and costumes for the Australian premiere of The Humans (The Old Fitz 2018), The Girl/The Woman (National Theatre of Parramatta 2018), Apokalypsis (Next Wave Festival 2018), the Griffin Award winning play Kill Climate Deniers (Griffin 2018) and Metamorphoses (Apocalypse Theatre Co 2018). Jonathan was the 2017 resident designer at The Old Fitz Theatre, for which he designed the set for A View From the Bridge, set and costumes for DoubtA ParableCrimes of the Heart and set for The Judas Kiss. His work also includes design of the set for Look Back in Anger (2016), set & costumes for Low Level Panic (2016), costumes for Sport For Jove’s Away (2016), set for Belleville (2016), set and costumes for The Cherry Orchard (2016), Teacup in a Storm at Q Theatre (2016) and Intoxication for the 2016 Midsumma Festival. In his graduating year at NIDA, Jonathan designed the set for the premiere season of Vale by Nicki Bloom and costumes for Stranger I Am for director Craig Ilott. Jonathan has also assisted designer Elizabeth Gadsby on Dinner (Sydney Theatre Company 2017) and The Rape of Lucretia (Sydney Chamber Opera 2017).

For screen, Jonathan has production designed a number of music videos, including Tonight Alive’s How Does It Feel, Huntington’s Secret and short films The Craft (13&Co) and Red Flags for ACON health organisation.