Set design is the creation of theatrical scenery which is unique to each play. ‘Shadow of a Gunman’ is a play set in the early 1920s during the period of the Irish resistance and I would like the set design of ‘Shadow of a Gunman’ to reflect the period which the play was set in. I would do this by using a proscenium arch type of stage in keeping with the original intentions of the playwright as the play was meant to be shown at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin during the early 1920s.
I would also use the proscenium arch type of stage as it frames the action going on onstage and allows the audience to focus on the actions on stage as Shadows of a gunman is a play with a lot of offstage action that is retold by the actors. Focusing on the actual action is very important as the body movement, facial expression and the tone of voice of the actors is essential in understanding the play.
I would also wish to create a naturalistic style surrounding the play is set within a period where the events could have actually happened as it is based on the happenings of that period that the play was set around. I would also like to do this as the play symbolises O’Casey’s efforts to bring the Irish down from their high horses and this would best be put across in a naturalistic style. I would like to create the effect of a claustrophobic and cluttered environment which reflects the characters of the two men who reside within this room.
I would also like the room to give of the effect of a poverty stricken environment due to the state of the murky cracked floor boards as well as the scarce furnishing. It should also show that the men living in this room would like to live better than they actually are due to the way they attempt at decorating their room with the cracked mirror, thin sheets, dead looking wild flowers as well as the supposed lace curtains and the statue of the sacred heart and the small worn out crucifix placed on top of the fireplace.
The crucifix and statue of the sacred heart should also give of the religious beliefs of the occupants of the room as the period which the play is set in (1920s) is one which the Irish held their religion close to their heart as they felt it was a way for them to stand out as true Irish people. I would also like to create realism in terms of historical period which can be shown by the metal framed beds, broken down typewriter and the feather pen which should all reflect the period.
I would also like to highlight the contrast between the two characters Davoren and Seamus in the way Davoren’s bed is well arranged with his pillow propped up properly and Seamus’ is scattered in the carefree way which he also carries himself. There is only one entranceexit and it is located right next to the dresser which is located upstage right. The door at the entrance is to be used as an acting device during various scenes of the play. For example’ when Tommy Owens enters in Act One, he uses the door as a sort of shield as he walks into a private moment which is shared by Minnie and Davoren.
He runs back towards the entrance spins around and holds his head to the door while yelling “I seen nothin’ honest…. ” The set is laid out in a very sparse fashion as this reflects the social class of the inhabitants. The windows are dirty and little or no light passes through them. They are located upstage behind white turned brown lace curtains which are shabby and torn right down the middle and frayed around the edges. On the right of the curtain is a dresser with b the top caked in dust. On the left of the curtain is a wash stand with a basin which Seumas uses in Act one.
He goes over to the wash stand, takes a jug out and pours some water into the basin. As he is doing this some water spills and instead of cleaning it with a mop Seumas shrugs and tries to rub it out with his leg realising that it is a pointless attempt he shrugs and continues about his business. In front of the dresser is a metal framed bed that is angled at about 45 degrees. It has a space underneath which Maguire uses to store his suitcase in Act One. A thin sheet is spread along as well and a pillow which is slowly falling apart is placed at the head of the bed. The owner however has left it in a mess.
Towards the left is another metal framed bed exactly like the previous one but the owner has laid his bed in an orderly fashion. This further highlights the contrast between the two characters that live in this room. There is a table further downstage on the left. This is where Davoren does all his creative writing. It represents his portal into his alternative reality which he is always desperate to escape to. An armchair is right behind the table. On top of the table is an old broken down typewriter which Davoren uses for his writing. A stack of paper, a feather pen and some writing materials are also scattered across the table.
On the top right corner of the table stands a vase of wild flowers. It represents the flimsy effort at livening up the room which the two men had failed at passing across. In the centre of the table is an overturned book which is used by Davoren to express his frustration as new characters walk into the room and disturb him from his writing. As he stylishly tries to dismiss Minnie she says “Oh, it’s all right, Mr Davoren, you’ll do just as well” She then walks into the centre of the room and starts chatting away oblivious to the fact that Davoren is obviously displeased at her presence.
He then slams the book down and whispers “Ah me, alas! Pain, pain, pain ever, for ever! ” Further down stage on the left is a fire place which has a small worn out crucifix and a statue of the sacred heart placed on the top. This fireplace is used to destroy the letter which Mr Gallogher gave Davoren as it posed as incriminating evidence. The auxiliaries are heard surrounding the apartment Davoren searches frantically for the letter and finds it in his breast pocket due to his anxiety he cannot figure out what exactly to do with it. Seumas then suggests he should burn it.
A pause is then witnessed as the little paper crackles away in the fire while the men look into the fire and the fire ignites the fear that is mirrored in their eyes. Then sound of the engines slowly fades away and the two men let off an audible sigh of relief. To the right of the table is an arm chair with clothes hanging from its arms as Seamus can’t bother to keep them away. There is also a heap of clothes which are placed carelessly right in front of the Seamus, bed. This is where Seamus picks up his trousers from in Act One. He raises it against the light and inspects it for any obvious stains, shakes it out and pulls them on.
This further shows Seamus as the untidy and careless fellow which he is. Seamus then goes over to pick up his briefcase which is lying idle just further downstage right. It contains all his merchandise as he is a sales man. As he slams it down on the floor just next to his bed a crack can be heard as the wooden panels on the floor cannot take such pressure. I would like the audience to have a feeling of irritation towards the untidiness of the whole set layout. Finally, I would like attention to be paid to the little details concerning the general aura of disarray and disorderliness surrounding the basic layout of the sat.