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Summer Show 2019: Interview with Hazel Owen, BA Theatre Design

Man and women waking up with confused facial expression
Man and women waking up with confused facial expression
Man and women waking up from be with confused facial expression
Written by
Tyrone Huggins
Published date
08 August 2019

BA Theatre Design Graduate Hazel Owen exhibited her designs for an opera set that explored themes of fragmentation and desire at the Wimbledon Summer Show 2019.

Here, she talks about her practice, how she finds inspiration when starting a new project and what she enjoyed most about putting her final piece together.

A behind shot of three women doing synchronized dancing
A behind shot of three women doing synchronized dancing - Credit: Hazel Owen Caption

Can you tell us about the work you showed at the Summer Degree Show?

My final piece was a giant sculpture and model box set with costume storyboards for Alban Berg’s opera Lulu, at the Royal Opera House. I chose a design for this opera because I found the story incredibly interesting. The whole concept is about fragmentation and the danger and appeal of sexual desire. The character I chose to focus on, Lulu, is an extremely attractive woman who goes through life destroying a lot of men’s lives due to her troubled past - but the narrative doesn't suggest whether she is the victim or the victimiser.

Throughout the course of the performance I have designed, my sculpture would start to fragment and break apart, incorporating parts of the sculpture into scene changes. The set for the first act was based on a church in Vienna and I liked the idea of this space that would open up into sparse masculine landscape, which is meant to be in contrast with the sculpture.

What was the most enjoyable part of putting your final piece together?

The designing - I spent about three weeks drawing and it was great, it was the best three weeks ever! I also really enjoyed researching, compiling and modelling my work.

Stage model of giant sculpture and model box set with four people looking at the sculpture
Stage model of giant sculpture and model box set with four people looking at sculpture - Credit: Hazel Owen Caption

Has your practice and interests changed since starting the degree?

Yes for sure. I used to look at other designs for a production and then use that as inspiration to figure out the design I wanted to use. But now I feel like I'm more familiar with the things that interest me. So, if I’m looking at a project, I will generally refer to the art work of that era as a visual starting point, research the culture surrounding that time and that’s where I start. It’s very material-driven too.

I love experimenting with textures. I love painting using different materials, for instance, last year I would try to make sand into paintings. I love tactile things. I have the terrible habit of touching everyone’s artwork and everyone gets really angry at me. At least if I make something that I can touch, hopefully I won’t touch everyone else’s work!

If you could sum up your final year experience in three words, what would they be?

That’s really hard! I would say challenging, exciting and empowering.

What advice would you give to second year students in preparation for their degree show?

Organisation. Start doing work and preparing during summer, if you can. If not, make a plan of your time, and in those plans allow time for everything to go wrong because it will, and you would need to leave at least a week and a half for some sort of existential crisis. But also give yourself breaks because if you keep working consistently, you will burnout.

Want to find out more about our BA Theatre Design course? Visit the course page for more information.