Our project coordinator recently spoke to Theatre Designer Bethany Seddon on her training at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Youth Theatre at the Sherman Theatre , recent production designs for Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival and career to date.
Bethany (centre) working on the recent Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival
Hi Bethany, You have currently designed a range of productions for Everyman Cardiff Summer Festival You must be busy! Is it possible to give our readers some background information on yourself?
Of course! Well I was born in Newport, South Wales, and as a child and well into my teenage years I was fascinated with theatre and, in particular, acting! I took part in as many productions as possible with school, at the age of 13 I joined the Dolman Youth Theatre and at 16 joined the Sherman Youth Theatre, and both groups offered invaluable experience both on and off stage. As I was approaching the end of my A levels I had a huge crisis of confidence and decided acting wasn’t actually for me… so what was I to do? I took a year and did an art foundation which I loved but by the end of the course, scared of narrowing my options too much, I moved onto a Fine Art degree, which, unfortunately just wasn’t for me. By Christmas I knew I wasn’t enjoying Fine Art at all and I happened to be acting and designing a show with the company Inky Quill. I was so excited by the possibilities of design and part of me had always wanted to design for stage so this seemed like such a logical step for me to take. I did a quick google search, found out Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama did a Theatre Design course and applied straight away. A few weeks later I attended an open day and fell in love a little more, and few weeks later again and I had an interview and luckily, they accepted me onto the course. Three very hard years later, a little caffeinated and sleep deprived I was sent out into the world and, thankfully, I haven’t stopped working since. The course taught me such a wide range of skills that I work between designing for stage, to working in TV and film, and pick up bits of work in assisting and using skills for jobs in technical drawings, construction, painting, prop making and teaching/ creating workshops.
You have worked for a variety of companies in the UK and especially Wales, what are the employment opportunities like for a designer based in Wales?
Between theatre and TV and film work, South Wales is a great place to be based. You have some wonderful companies that range in size and statue that are always looking for new designers to work with. Cardiff is bustling with a whole host of theatres and companies who are always creating new work and writing, which really is very exciting, both for work and just to go and immerse yourself in the creative world. The neighbouring cities around Cardiff are also bustling with creativity, so it doesn’t take much to find yourself working in Swansea, or Bridgend, or Bristol. The arts network is really incredibly small, but people are always on the lookout for a designer, or assistant so honestly it’s just being able to say yes to possibilities… without being taken advantage of, of course.
You frequently support workshop activity with members of the public, do you think this type of activity is important and why?
I believe it is incredibly important work, especially when you believe in what the company is creating. Working with Sherman Five at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff and Mess up the Mess have both shown me how an individual can develop in such a short amount of time through workshop activities, and I have witnessed massive developments in individuals self confidence.
The workshops are all about allowing creative expression, however simple to start and encouraging a participant to let go of their inhabitations. From long term projects to one off days like creating monsters at the Wales Millennium Centre , it’s such a joy to see people from various backgrounds and age groups connect with a task through their creativity.
Are their any individuals or organisations that helped support you in developing your skills and knowledge?
Mr Phillip Mackenzie
Sherman Youth Theatre and the youth theatre director at the time Phillip Mackenzie were brilliant at helping me understand theatre wasn’t all about the text behind a proscenium arch. At the age of 16 I was allowed to explore different styles of theatre which I believe was just invaluable and the group I was working with were all so dedicated and focused on what we were creating, and we had so much fun working on our productions. I honestly look back and think about how lucky I was to be working with that group! I think I might be in a very different place if it wasn’t for the wonderful opportunities to act and travel I had with the Sherman. However my training and work ethic was greatly enhanced by Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the head of the BA Hons Design for Performance Mr Sean Crowley. I learnt so much in those 3 years and would not be doing as well as I am without the training and support of the alumni.
Mr Sean Crowley
When you aren’t involved in the arts or culture what do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time?! After opening 4 shows in 4 weeks, and having very few days off this year I’m afraid I fail a little at answering this question!
I know I used to like to read and go to see theatre, but for me it’s been a while since I have done either! I normally crash when I get home, or continue working away till quite late, and try to see friends and my family when I can. Luckily most of my friends are in the arts so understand our varying schedules often conflict and the ones that aren’t in this little bubble are the most wonderful people to put up with me without getting too annoyed at long periods of silence!
Model Box ‘Into the Woods’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival
Realised Set ‘Into the Woods’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival
Model Box ‘Peter Pan’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival
Model Box ‘Peter Pan’ Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival
More examples of Bethany’s work can be found at her website http://bethanyseddon.com
Thanks for that insight into your career Bethany.