Designing Aladdin at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre

Paul Ryan as Mrs Darzi
Paul Ryan as Mrs Darzi

East meets West in the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s colourful, magical, musical panto – Aladdin – and that has to be conveyed in the set.

You’ll find a street musician, diva dame, loveable genies, royalty, a Scandinavian baddie, Garbage Gang and more in the latest fantasy tale written by Andrew Pollard.

This year artistic director Chris Monks is at the helm with designs by Sue Condie who last worked with the theatre on its 2013 Christmas shows, Beauty and the Beast and The Schoolmistress.

She’s gone to town on the set and costume designs which take in Norwegian, Chinese, central Asian and mythical elements.

She said: “The play is set in the rich and the poor world of Kashgar where Aladdin lives - it’s not specifically Chinese or Arabic but a crossroad of cultures – and the world of Norway with its ice and mountains and the lights of the Aurora Borealis.”

This is Sue’s fourth time working on Aladdin having previously designed it for sister theatre the New Vic in Stoke, Coventry’s Belgrade and Cheltenham Everyman theatres.

“Every Aladdin is different,” she said. “It’s easy to find inspiration for such a lovely, exotic story and as this is newly written it’s like a fresh start – with new characters it’s totally different and in a different space.

“Aladdin lives in a poor junkyard area but it’s a lively, vibrant place. It’s home to the Garbage Gang who are very fun, they’re played by the young cast who later become mythical statues and creatures in the Cave of Groans, producing jewels for Aladdin.”

As well as picking up items from Scarborough, Leeds and Birmingham, sourcing costume material has been a collective effort with the theatre’s staff collecting everything from plastic bottles and coffee, crisp, salad, washing powder and pet food packets to lids, can rings and more.

“Recycled costumes are very trendy at the moment and Mrs Darzi, Aladdin’s mum, is very poor so she’s experimenting with creating designer clothing from rubbish and junk. The wardrobe department have sewn items into the costumes, it’s very colourful and beautifully constructed, they have done a wonderful job,” said Sue.

The recycled items can be seen in aprons and dresses, armour, a full suit and in the set for Kashgar’s junkyard.

Sue said: “You have to be as inventive as you can with visual surprises - we’ve also got a lot of treats coming out of the floor, set that lights up and the costumes are really important as they bring the characters to life.”

Aladdin features seven actor-musicians and 16 local young performers, magic, comedy, chart tunes, appearing and disappearing genies and, of course, a magic lamp and flying carpet.

It runs at the Stephen Joseph until Saturday January 3