Floorcloth – Rotherham Schools Shakespeare Festival

Rotherham Schools Shakespeare Festival is a yearly celebration of Shakespeare. Schools are grouped in ‘hubs’ of chosen play and each school takes on one act from the play to produce. Each hub has a professional drama facilitator to help guide them and to give a common thread through each production. Over the two week festival, the schools come together to perform the plays. As it has grown in popularity both with schools wanting to take part and audiences, this year’s festival was performed in a big top tent in the park.

New Artistic Director, Alice Bartlett, commissioned me to run design workshops with the teachers to look at how you can use design to tell the story and help signpost things for the audience. I particularly looked at community theatre and how to use the fact you have large numbers to your advantage and making a small budget stretch.

I also designed and painted a floorcloth to be used by all the performance. Although it had to be neutral enough to work for all the plays, I wanted to get away from the idea that neutral means plain white or black. Large casts and the need for position markings means plain floors can look scruffy quickly. I chose to create a floorcloth based on old parchment as this gave texture that could convey both indoor and outdoor and hid the scuff marks of several hundred children. The pale tone meant that use of coloured light and gobos could be use to convey additional places. I used a collection of famous Shakespeare quotes in lines and patches to give integrated position markers. I made sure there were quotes from each of the plays being done this year but also some of the most well known from other plays. This means the floorcloth has been a good investment and can be used for future festivals as well.