Hi, my name is Sadie R Benning and I work as a Theatre Design Assistant alongside freelance Theatre designer Sarah Jane Booth.
I grew up in Dartford and have always been interested in drawing and making. At 16 I decided I wanted to turn my passion into a potential career and applied to a Pre-degree Art and Design course at the University of Creative Arts in Rochester, I then went on to complete their degree in Illustration and Animation. It was halfway through my second year that the first Covid Lockdown struck, but I made the most of the free time and used it to write and illustrate my own Children’s book. During the lockdown I really feel that I found my own style and even taught myself how to punch needle embroider.
Once I’d graduated I began looking for a job. It was hard enough competing with those who had more experience than me, but looking for a creative job during a pandemic made it even harder. Eventually, I came across Creative Estuary’s advertisement for a Theatre Design Assistant on LinkedIn. I loved the idea of working in theatre design, I knew it would require a whole variety of different skills and that I’d get to experiment with making props, painting sets and of course – drawing and design. I liked the idea that no two days would be the same, there would always be new projects and different shows to work on.
Since starting with Sarah in February I’ve learnt how to make model-make and work in a modelbox (both traditionally and digitally), how to create useful documents to keep track of the budget, props and costume, how to use a sewing machine and an overlocker. I’ve learnt about designing costumes and working with fabric, making props and building set. I’ve also learnt how to research for a show, work together in a team of people, and so much more.
So far I have worked on five productions:
It’s always great seeing the miniature designs you’ve been looking at for months turn into full-scale, real productions and theatre design is such a fun and interesting job. Still, it’s been a challenge, learning so many new things about theatre and discovering that there is so much more that goes into a production than a pretty design and fun costumes. It takes a lot of effort from a small team of people to pull off a show, and these people have usually been working on a show for months before opening night. I have learnt about the roles of all these people that I meet at every new production; the directors, producers, stage management, wardrobe team, technicians and sometimes there are conductors and choreographers too.
At the moment I am helping out at some workshops for a play called As you like it, and working on a Mansfield Park Opera. As much as I’ve loved this placement, I don’t see my myself being a full-time theatre designer just yet – there really is a lot that goes into it and a lot for one person to do. Designing an entire show is a responsibility I’m not ready to take on yet. However, I would love to continue working in theatre, and Sarah and I have already discussed working together on shows in the future.
Whatever happens, I’m so grateful for the time I’ve spent on my placement. I’ve learnt so many skills that can transfer into a lot of creative jobs, and I genuinely believe this placement has provided me with the knowledge and experience I need to continue my career. I’ve learnt so much about theatre design and the creative industry and can’t wait to see where it will take me.