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Designing Footloose


band in dance hall on stage

Stalwart of the industry, Adrian Rees, shares his process for getting the production of Footloose from inception to opening night

churchgoers below a glowing cross

What are some of the things you need to take into consideration when designing a set?

Budget, time, workforce and skills are paramount. I love designing for the talents of the craftspeople who work with me. At the end of the day, I am only as good as they are. At Pitlochry Festival Theatre, they are all exceptionally talented.

With a huge show like Footloose, how do you make the set look epic while keeping it simple on the production side especially when you are designing it as a co-production between two different theatres?

There are lots of spaces that are not filled with physical set – the large central bridge archway being one such point on the Footloose set, but the set fills the stage at both Pitlochry Festival Theatre and The New Wolsey. Film and television leave a lot to live up to these days, so it’s important to have as many options as possible on stage.

Footloose model box
Footloose diner model
Diner scene Footloose

Tell us about the process of set design work from start to finish:

The first thing I do is read the script to get a feel of the world, the period and the scale. Then, I have a really good talk with the director; this could last for several weeks, as I research everything! I like to make a very rough white card model that can be easily altered until the physical parameters are set. Then a very detailed, finished coloured model is made and the working drawings for the workshops and scenics to make the set 25 times bigger than the model.

girl on ladder and girl playing violin

Is it important to build in things like the ladders on the sides of Footloose to get the actors to different heights? 

When you are designing a big musical far in advance of the start of rehearsals, it’s a good idea to give the director and choreographer as many opportunities as possible for exploring and exploiting the set and the ladders seemed to fit with the industrial and agricultural theme.

Is building the model box a fun aspect of your job? 

I have always loved model making. I think it is such an important skill to have. My pals in the workshop know that what is on the model is what I want. I have an awful lot of past show models in my library at home.



The railway beam is a lovely touch, why did you decide to design it that way? 

Doug Rintoul, the Director, really wanted there to be a feeling of danger, so I designed it to emerge from the structure at the top of the set. The guys in the workshop and the production manager took this problem on board and really mastered it. The way it moves is a testament to their skills.


What’s one of your favourite features of the set?

I love working closely with the LX department and I love how they have carried out my idea for the train trundling past.


What’s the most satisfying part of what you do?

Sitting in an auditorium with lots of people who get what I’m trying to do. The train in Hello, Dolly and the truck in Grapes of Wrath were unusual and seeing the audience realise what is happening is always fun.


kids dancing with confetti