Scenic Designer Brandin Hurley on Creating the Surreal World of Lecherous Honey
Lecherous Honey by Megan Breen is a contemporary adaptation of Henrik Ibsen's classic play Ghosts. Performed as a site-specific promenade piece by Cock and Bull Theatre at Berger Park North Mansion. Lecherous Honey turns the classic play upside down revealing a surreal landscape. The play is seen through the mind of Ibsen's lead character, Helene Alving as she experiences a newfound sexual and personal awakening.
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
The physical world of the play is a projection of Mrs. Alving's chaotic, confusing and haunted internal visions. Her reality is often overlapped and confused with memories and manifestations of her desires, creating a surreal visual world that is slowly taking over the home. Flowers that find no boundary at the edge of the house but continue to grow freely past it's walls. Swarms of bees who leave wallpaper-like patterns and overlap the architecture.
How do you think you deconstructed the world of Ghosts through design?
I think the deconstruction of this show through design goes back to the battle raging inside of Mrs. Alving. By projecting the physical manifestation of an emotional state or desire, you're able to show the audience the way a character is feeling by making them feel it themselves, in the moment.
The play is promenade style and site specific, what challenges did that create for you as a designer?
Promenade style theater always causes some challenges as a designer. The design has to be presentable from all angles, as well as more highly refined than necessary in a traditional theater show. There are also not the usual structures in place to hang or secure set pieces so you have to get creative with installation. However, it also causes you to view the design in ways you would not always consider. You aren't starting with a blank canvas as you usually are. The space is very much a part of the design from the beginning and it greatly influences where the design goes.
photos by Janie Killips, Cody Ryan
What is a unique theatrical experience or design that you remember?
I am always very affected by traditional theater with ancient roots. Anything from Southeast Asia or Central America, whose traditions, movements and costumes you can see echoing back hundreds or even thousands of years. The way they capture emotions within physicality and their use of overly theatrical elements such as elaborate masks and shadow puppets always stays with me. There's something simultaneously ancient and fresh about it. Cock and Bull tend to capture a lot of these elements in their work, which I love.
Outside of your own design what other design resonates with you from Lecherous Honey?
I was able to work closely with the lighting designer, Jessica Doyle throughout the process. She was a great person to collaborate with - we were able to create imagery together and were, therefore, able to create a more layered and coherent design than we would have been able to alone. I also am in awe of the way she is able to transform each space completely during each scene. I am also, though I wasn't able to work as directly with them, stunned by the beautiful and haunting design for the sound and costumes.
What makes Cock and Bulls work unique as a designer?
Working with Cock and Bull was a great experience for me as a designer; it was wonderful to work on a new play, to make discoveries together. It's a very supportive environment; it feels such like a collaboration.
There are many ghosts in the play, have you seen/and or do you believe in ghosts?
When I was a kid my dad convinced me that there was the ghost of a young girl that lived in our house, and she would wander around checking the water by turning on the taps; we had something wrong with our plumbing and the water would periodically run for 30 seconds or so for no reason. I would be in the bathroom in the middle of the night and the taps would turn on and I would run back to my bedroom as fast as I could. It's easy to be a skeptic during the day, but at night when the house starts creaking...I'm pretty sure everyone believes in ghosts.
Brandin Hurley is a freelance fine artist, muralist and installation artist. She has been working in the Chicagoland area since the completion of her MFA program at NIU in 2013. Recent works include site specific installations at 34/TEN Architecture firm and Jackson Junge Gallery, and the scenic design of (re)Discover Theater's Farewell My Friend.
Lecherous Honey runs until November 12th at Berger Park North Mansion