Straight from the Warhorse's Mouth

Rae Smith, designer of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s production of The Tempest, reveals how she approached the ballet in the same way as her award-winning production of War Horse.

'What was interesting for me was that David wanted me to think of the set like a Shakespearean play rather than a ballet,' she explains. 'So the world becomes a composite set - an environment that is the same, but changes quite dramatically as we use it in different ways.

'It doesn’t require lots of scenery flying in and out, it simply requires the interpretation of space in different ways with unique things happening on stage. So it’s much more Shakespearean, rather than traditionally balletic, in its interpretation.


'It’s a good storytelling technique. In War Horse, for example, the environment was a floor and a torn piece of paper cloud. It’s a very simple setting in which lots of different things can happen. But of course the simpler you are in your staging, the more detail occurs when you’re telling the story.'

With 2016 being the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, a vast number of new productions have hit the stage in the past twelve months. But Rae has not felt the pressures of competition: 'There have been new Shakespeare productions since 1599, so I don’t get deterred by that,' she says, 'and each new production is determined by its unique origins of creativity. In this case you have David making beautiful choreography for a new piece, and Sally Beamish, who is an amazing composer, making new music. So it’s extraordinary to start off with, and that will make it unique in itself'.