The design for Billy Bishop Goes to War , which opened last night at the Telus Studio Theatre, was influenced by a number of inspirations. These included the sculpture of American artist Lee Bontecou, airfield architecture from the First World War, aerial photographs taken during actual reconnaissance and the idea of found objects in a space transforming into something theatrical. The elements give us a sense of period, bringing us back in time and into the world of Bishop. The palette is muted and earthy, incorporating the feeling of natural materials. It is derived from examples of Bontecou’s work, which contains an interesting juxtaposition of hard and soft materials combined with paint.
The show lends itself to intimacy, given its single character, Billy Bishop, and a musician to support him. Because of this we have chosen a thrust layout for the Telus Studio Theatre, wrapping the audience on three sides. There is a hint of an old hangar, with a sculptural element at the end of the space and a few prop elements scattered throughout. By simple suggestion the audience is transported to various locations; a simple prop such as a rug invokes a parlour, backlighting the sculpture as a window gives the vastness of a hangar, giving the actor height for the telling of a flying story takes us into the air. Towards the end of the piece, the simple, seemingly non-descript objects transform into something unexpected in a bit of theatrical magic. Come see Billy Bishop to discover the surprise.~ Kevin McAllister