Designer Hayley Grindle talks about her inspiration and vision for the second Public Acts production, As You Like It. This musical adaption of William Shakespeare’s classic play will be performed by over 100 community members, professional actors and performance groups from across London.

Following triumphant performances of Pericles at the National Theatre in summer 2018, this is the second Public Acts production and will take over the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch stage from 24 – 27 August.

Public Acts is a nationwide initiative to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community.

How did you get involved with Public Acts?

Through Douglas Rintoul, our director. We have been collaborators for about 16 years now so he introduced me to the project.

Can you tell me more about your design vision for As You Like It? What can we expect?

You can expect two worlds that feel very different, an environment that changes and surprises. One that feels dark and oppressive and one that should delight.

When you read the script, did you have an immediate response to it in terms of how you wanted the production to look visually?

I felt like I wanted to be able to transform the space with very little happening in terms of structure and huge set pieces; that the visual storytelling should be seamless and allow the company to be at the design’s centre.

How did you get from the first idea to the final design?

Lots of dreaming, charts, researching, sketching, building in the model; I tend to do a lot of this so I can get a feel for the space, going back to the script and working through the production and its tone with Doug. This process allows you to navigate your way through the story, keeping the story and the company at the heart of the design. The big question for this design was how to start the show, and how do we end up at a forest!

Did the company size impact your decisions in any way?

Yes! One of the first things I did was to put all the figures in the model that represent our company. They filled the stage! This really guided the design; the design is the company in a way. The set design needs to serve that idea.

What are you most looking forward to working on As You Like It?

The tech, I strangely love a tech! (Technical rehearsals) It is the time you get everyone involved with the project in the same room at the same time and you solve and create together. There is a huge energy to this week and I am excited to be sharing one with this company of people.

Why should people come and see As You Like It?

To see this extraordinary company! Their energy and vibrancy on stage I know will be uplifting and full of joy.

How did you first get interested in Set and Costume design?

I was lucky enough to meet a fantastic woman called Ruth Sabin when I was about 17. She was a costume wardrobe supervisor and introduced me to all kind of projects she worked on. It was through her that I was inspired and discovered that you could actually do this for a job.

Which projects / productions have been your favourite to work on over the course of your career?

This is a tricky one as each project offers something different. But I think Romeo and Juliet produced by Leeds Playhouse. The story, The Quarry stage, the energy of a large group of professional and young company of actors and our discoveries of the piece.

Have you worked with the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch or the National Theatre before? If so, on which productions?

Yes, I worked on Doug’s second show as Artistic Director Made In Dagenham and Iphigenia in Splott, a show produced by The Sherman, which had a run at The Shed, the National Theatre’s temporary Theatre in 2016. I am thrilled to be working with the National Theatre and Public Acts more directly though and of course to be back at the Queen’s Theatre alongside Doug.

As You Like It runs from 24 – 27 August at the Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. For more information about As You Like It, Public Acts and to book tickets click here.

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