Therapy in Hell Set Design: Oliver Ross

Part of the inspiration of the set was drawn from Marg Horwell’s set design for Malthouse’s Blasted in 2018 – a raised platform in the centre of the stage, where a luxury hotel room transformed into an apocalyptic ruin. In addition to the visual transformation, I found the use of space really interesting; the raised actors were at the same height or higher than the audience, yet further detached from them, making them both confrontingly close and more distant. Working through draft designs, raised platforms were also able to be created with the venue stock of flats and rostra, but were able to completely transform the black box space. Watching festival seasons like Midsumma, Fringe and MICF, rugs often dramatically change a space despite their quick bump in times, so I was keen to experiment with other ways of changing the floor.

Model Box 1

Model Box 1

The raised platform acts as the therapist office, with neutrals tones and decor – including lots of cat pictures! While initially brainstorming ways to quickly change it to a more hellish iteration of the office, it was suggested to potentially use the classical paintings of hell I’d been inspired by, and hang them on the way as artwork, merging the spaces sooner.

Below the platform is the rest of hell – lurking below the main action, but also far closer to the audience. With lava being such common imagery in the script, I started playing around different ways to evoke it, including fabric with lighting rigged underneath it.

Model Box 2

Model Box 2

 

 

 

We briefly considered a second zoom reading where we played into the platform more with transitions and staging,including effects such as fog. During rehearsals, our stage manager Eric often used chess boards to chart blocking, which gave me the idea of using a set model as a kind of doll house, bookending scenes with figurines moving through the model, including lighting shifts. I was also inspired by tabletop RPG streams, especially the design work of Rick Perry in Dimension 20’s different Dungeons and Dragons series. As the shows are primarily improv around a table with limited costumes, the worlds were created with highly detailed models and miniatures they are interwoven into fight scenes. I thought his work also tonally resonated with the show, playing with a mix of absurdity and drama – such as a Game of Thrones esque political thriller set in a world of cotton candy and living bread, or a retro fantasy where demons fight in high school cafeterias and car chases.

Model Box with Fog 3

Design Inspiration

Blasted, Marg Horwell – Apocalyptic Ruin

Blasted, Marg Horwell – Luxury Hotel

Crown of Candy, Rick Perry

Divine Comedy Illustrated by Botticelli

Fantasy High, Rick Perry

Franz von Stuck, Inferno

John Martin, Pandemonium

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Dulle Griet

Therapist Office Inspiration A

Therapist Office Inspiration B

Therapist Office Inspiration C