"The concept for the set of Banana Shpeel was inspired by the aesthetics of
Vaudeville, the cabarets of the 1930s and German Expressionist cinema. We wanted to
achieve a distinctive look that would blend the old with the new. We explored the
dramatic potential of color through the play of light and shadow mixed with bright
primary colors, while showing, through shapes, images and cutouts, the playful side
of director David Shiner’s aesthetic." - Patricia Ruel
Designer Patricia Ruel also explored the dramatic possibilities
of color, and created shadows and light through the use of bold primary colors.
Given the historic nature of the heritage theatres in which the show was to
be presented, it was hard to suspend much of the lighting equipment from the
ceiling, and the backstage area offered very little space for storing scenery
and props. To escape these constraints, the color changes are made with a huge, thin,
lightbox screen positioned at the back of the stage. To create different
levels on the stage floor, Patricia Ruel designed a large moveable modular
unit with a high-gloss surface to reflect the colors of the costumes and the
screen. To maximize space in the wings without restricting the size of the
props Patricia opted for a two-dimensional approach to certain elements.
Flat, sometimes folding, props reinforce the impression of a world of
illusion and visual trickery.
Selected set elements and props
- To evoke the world of illusion in which Schmelky evolves, and at the same time
create an atmosphere that is both surreal and fun, many of the set elements were
made as flats. The use of photocopy textures in a modern interpretation of black
and white photography adds to this environment of visual trickery.
- Shapes such as the moon and the heart, and cutouts of some of the set
elements and props, illustrate the playful side of director David Shiner’s
- In the evil producer Schmelky’s scene as a magician surrounded by paper
tigers, revue dancers and transvestites, the magic boxes on both sides of the
stage are inspired by the glitzy carnivals of yesteryear.
- Light plays an important part in the set elements: the enormous stage curtain
is pierced with tiny holes that give the impression of a starry sky in a pattern
that evokes the 1930s.
- For the set to integrate easily from one theatre to the next, the scenery is
designed to enter and exit on the flies typically found in traditional
- The musicians are revealed from time to time as silhouettes against a stormy
sky projected on the lightbox. Their art nouveau style bandstand is made of