Design Challenges: The Derby Theatre Way

At Derby Theatre, our in-house productions always have ambitious set designs or unique elements that set our Production Team a new challenge and offer audiences a new theatrical experience.

Ever wondered how we do it? Here's a look back at some of our most spectacular production elements and a behind-the-scenes insight into how they were designed and made...

Great Expectations - Fire and Water

Great Expectations - Fire and Water

Designed by Barney George

The demanding set design for the Dickensian classic featured the use of real fire and water. The marshes and the Thames were created with small pools and even a 3ft deep water tank on stage. Miss Havisham’s fiery demise was represented through the use a giant chandelier that exploded into flames! Watch how we did it in the video with former Production Manager Phil below…

TWO - On Stage Bar

TWO - On-Stage Bar & Experience Seats

Designed by Ali Allen

For Jim Cartwright’s TWO a full pub set was created on-stage - with a working bar audience members could order drinks from during the interval. You could even book experience seats to sit up close to the action and order a pre-theatre meal before the show! Through our partnership with Dancing Duck Brewery, we were able to serve our own beverage - Dramatic Duck pale ale. Hear from the Set Designer Ali in the video below…

Sweeney Todd - Barber's Chair

Sweeney Todd - The Barber's Chair and Revolving Stage

Designed by Sara Perks
Co-produced with Mercury Theatre Colchester

Extract from the Programme: Sara said - "Our first discussions of the design included the use of a revolve. I was delighted to discover that Derby Theatre do indeed have their own revolve - and it’s a 10m ‘double revolve’ - so it has a centre and an outer ring that can operate independently from one another. It offers an amazing amount of flexibility for us - and we can create incredible, beautiful, almost filmic sequences with it. 

It was at this point that the process accelerated rapidly. I wanted to create some really interesting layers, levels and architectural shapes that conjure up the dark and gloomy corners of mid-Victorian London - the soot and grime covered bricks, the rotting woodwork of the East End rookeries, and the poverty and fight to earn even a meagre living. And that’s on top of wanting to honour all the technical challenges the piece throws up - after all (spoiler alert) – at least three people have their throats slit and fall down a trap from a collapsing barber’s chair!" 

Peter Pan - Flying

Peter Plan - Flying

Designed by Neil Irish

Flying Equipment provided by Kirby's AFX Ltd

No production of Peter Pan would be complete without some form of flying. From ziplines to harnesses, here's how we incorporated flying into our version of J.M Barrie's timeless tale of never growing up...

One Man, Two Guvnors - The Skiffle Band

One Man, Two Guvnors - The Skiffle Band

Designed by Neil Irish

Musical Director: Kelvin Towse, Band: Dominic Gee-Burch, Tomas Wolstenholme, Jay Osborne and Oraine Johnson

Co-produced with Queen's Theatre Hornchurch

Extract from the Programme: Director Sarah Brigham said - "The play is set in Brighton in 1963. We wanted to create the style and atmosphere of ‘end-of-the-pier’ variety shows, which were hugely popular in British seaside resorts in the 1950s and 1960s, and Neil Irish’s brilliant design sets the whole show as if it’s in an old music hall. Footlights and festoons frame the stage and a small band pit and bridge recreates the layout of small seaside theatres.

Like those old variety shows, we also have short interludes and the skiffle band are the main act throughout the show. They are incredible musicians. The characters also join them in various variety acts reminiscent of the time."

One Man, Two Guvnors - Set


Betrayal - The Memory Box

Betrayal - The Memory Box

Designed by Neil Irish

Extract from the Programme: Neil said "We wanted to show the reverse chronology physically, and we wanted the acting space to move and indicate a reverse in time. The space needed not to be naturalistic, but a memory box where the actors and their memories are trapped: the detritus of the nine years piled up, props and clothes to be used as the scenes unfold, layers of time like layers of decaying leaves in a wood.

The space gradually clears as we get towards the start of the story, when everything is clear and pure. We pursued this more expressionistic approach and found it more theatrically interesting than a more conventional naturalistic setting."