To make an immersive experience look this good, it takes a village.
Henry V Set Designer Amir Ofek began talks with director Lois Anderson early in the creative process, developing a plan to take the concepts of Anderson’s adaptation and make the audience feel like they were dropped into the world that the theatre troupe is seeking shelter from. At the edge of the world, at the end of the world, the audience is invited to feel the energy that the environment creates.
There are multiple elements that have been installed in the Douglas Campbell Theatre tent to invite patrons into the landscape of Henry V. As you walk through the tent flap, your feet tread upon a floor that has been treated with many layers of product to add depth, making you feel like you’re entering an arid and dire landscape. With its gritty texture and drawn fissures, you can feel the hours and days taken to build the floor just by standing on it.
There are piles of chairs artfully piled at the entrances and around the audience, another immersive gesture meant to draw you into the world. Having the chairs in your periphery for the duration of the performance makes the actors’ usage of chairs as props more impactful.
With the involvement of fabric artist Heather Young, Ofek’s idea for a tent-within-a-tent came to be. The Douglas Campbell Theatre tent was draped in 400 recycled coffee bags – about 600 square feet of fabric – donated by local coffee roasters. Each bag was carefully painted and sewn together to surround the audience and cast in a swath of natural fibres that carry a history of their own.
As your eyes adjust to the low light in the tent, you may start to notice that the lights seem to glow in harmony with the sound that surrounds you. Lighting Designer Sophie Tang and Sound Designer / Composer / Music Director Joelysa Pankanea’s contributions round out the atmospheric energy that envelopes you as you sit around the Howard Family Stage, which has been reimagined to a seating plan that is closer to “theatre in the round” than the thrust stage typically seen in the tent.
The transformation of the Douglas Campbell Theatre tent is a true testament to the strength of the creative team’s vision. What they have created is an environment that makes you feel like you have stepped out of time and place – and that you are now part of the world of Anderson’s adaptation.
For more about the process and design of Henry V, read and listen to Amir Ofek’s talk with CBC here.
Purchase your tickets for Henry V here.