“It’s a great creative time isn’t it?” says Brad Reid, as we discuss inspirational dreams. “You know where you wake up in the morning, you can’t help these visuals that are going on, and so you jot down what’s been happening. I seem to get some amazing things through dream, in that almost alpha state.”
The designer for Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle draws inspiration from everywhere. “I can be walking down the street and have my camera with me. . .It could be a texture on a wall, or a leaf...”
Brecht’s Chalk Circle, one of his better known works, is the first production of the year for Black Swan's HotBed Ensemble. According to Black Swan's website, the Ensemble is “an eight month program during which a selection of emerging performers and theatre-makers are involved in an extensive professional mentoring initiative”.
Brecht is a challenge for any performer, director or designer. He pioneered what is now called ‘epic theatre’; the basis of which is alienation. He aimed to surprise and challenge the audience whilst constantly reminding them that it was a story (rather than a real event). Brecht was known for using fragments of sets, unnatural lighting, and explanatory placards.
Brad, who is designing both set and costume, seems un-fussed about precedents and ‘doing Brecht’. “I obviously explore the text but ... I try not to be influenced too much by shows prior done or text descriptions. I usually try and push it past that point onto a completely different page.”
“That’s kind of where we’ve gone with Chalk Circle. Definitely not a traditional Brecht.” Here he pauses, as if visualizing the design in his head. “I think the audience is going to love it, I feel like everything from the music to the acting, it’s been taken out of that (Brecht) realm and placed into a world that we’ve created for it, so it’s a non specific time and place.”
“I don’t want to give the space away ... too much, but (it is a) layered, multifaceted world which changes as the scenes go by. It’s very much actor driven, without it just being the standard flat or screen.” Performer driven shows appeal to Brad. “I like actor driven shows, it doesn’t matter if it’s a low budget piece, self devised piece, or a musical.”
Variety seems to be the key in Brad’s career. Originally from Tasmania, studies in multimedia and arts preceded a stint in performance groups. Whilst backpacking around Australia he fell in love with Perth; “I was just blown away by how beautiful it was”. He stayed and formed Adrenalin Productions; “a company that specialized in performance freaks and unusual feats!” Brad laughs at his marketing line.
He moved into corporate design with Staging Connections where; “as much as I loved it and there is more money in corporate, you’re creating these amazing spaces that were used for only an hour or so.”
“I really liked the idea of being able to create spaces where they were actually lived in and (you) actually see the world played out...I said goodbye to corporate theatre and decided to go back and be a poor student!” Brad graduated with a Bachelor of Design from the WA Academy of Performing Arts in 2006.
This is his second show for the HotBed Ensemble, after last years The Laramie Project. He is happy to be back. “They’ve got a bit of heart behind this company which is nice ... I’m quite lucky in that sense.” He wants to stay in Perth, continuing with an array of theatre projects. “The exciting thing about Perth is that it is just booming ... and the arts I’m sure is going to catch up soon!”
“It’s all just meshed ... not that I planned it all that way, but it seems to be going in the right direction.”
The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Black Swan Theatre opens next week. Further information»
Brad Reid. Photo - Gary Marsh