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Friday 30th November 2007
Exhibition Review | THE LINBURY BIENNIAL PRIZE 2007 | NT Lyttelton Theatre

Exhibition: The Linbury Biennial Prize for Stage Design Exhibition 2007
Venue: National Theatre
Address: South Bank, London SE1 9PX
Tel: +44 (0)20 7452 3000
Dates: 10 November 2007 - 5 January 2008
Admission: Free
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Reviewed by Howard Loxton

Whilst you can see the cream of British scenography at the Collaborators exhibition at the V&A, young stage design talent is also on show at the National Theatre where the selected finalists for the biennial Linbury Prize are being displayed.

Founded in 1987 by Anya Sainsbury, the Linbury Biennial now celebrates 20 years of discovering and supporting promising young designers. Among past winners who have gone on to become internationally recognised in their field and have received numerous awards are Tim Hatley, winner of an Olivier award and a Tony for Humble Boy and Private Lives; Anthony Ward, designer for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, My Fair Lady and Rupert Goold's Macbeth; Vicki Mortimer, designer for Closer and Jumpers for the National Theatre and currently working on Much Ado About Nothing; Es Devlin, designer for ENO's current production of Carmen and rap star Kanye West's recent US tour and Adam Wiltshire whose work has twice been used by Royal Ballet choreographer Alastair Marriott at the Royal Opera House.

The National Theatre showcases the work of 12 young stage designers chosen from over 100 applicants to the competition. Since July they have been working with four of the UK's leading theatre and opera companies preparing their models and designs for forthcoming productions. This year the participating companies were Headlong, Tricycle Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and The Opera Group.

Displayed in the Lyttelton Theatre foyer at Circle level the exhibition includes set models and costume designs with comments from the designers on their approach and design concept. The judges must have had a difficult time deciding among the different treatments for the four productions.

On Wednesday, 15 November, four winners were announced who share around 66,000 in prize money, design commissions and production sponsorship.

The overall winner, presented with her prize by the National Theatre's director Nicholas Hytner, is Garance Marneur. She is originally from Chartres, France, and graduated this year from Central St Martins with a first class honours degree in Design for Performance. She won with an interesting design for Brecht's version of Turandot for Hampstead Theatre that makes full use of that stage's width and depth with curved horizontal forms.

I was most impressed by Tom Scutt's concept for Gulliver for Headlong Theatre, especially his sketches of succeeding scenes and his explanation of the way they follow each other. He received the Jocelyn Herbert Award, named in memory of the late stage designer.

The other winners were Helen Goddard with a design for Doubt at the Tricycle, a play set in a Bronx Catholic school. She uses a permanent set with moveable elements, including screens on tracks which move across the front of the stage whenever there is a scene change. The colour and structure of the set exactly convey an atmosphere of Catholic guilt and the confessional.

The fourth winner was Rhys Jarman with his design for the Opera Group's production of Varjak Paw, an opera about cats, that uses staggered vertical panels to great effect with witty-looking anthropomorphic feline costumes.

It was announced at the awards ceremony that the management and administration of the Prize is soon to be handled by the National Theatre. This follows a long and close relationship between the Linbury Prize and the National Theatre which has hosted the exhibition of designs by the twelve Linbury finalists since 1989. However, the Prize will continue to be artistically independent and will continue to work with theatre, opera and dance companies from around the country to provide young stage designers with an unparalleled opportunity for this development and exposure at a crucial moment in their career.

Howard Loxton 2007

Exhibition Reviews
Garance Marneur, overall winner of the Linbury Prize for Stage Design 2007 with her model box for Brecht's Turandot for Hampstead Theatre.

Photographer: Susan Barnes

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