Bunny Christie and Finn Ross - Designing new worlds
Bunny Christie and Finn Ross are collaborators in an underappreciated area of design – creating theatre experiences which thrill, challenge and move audiences.
Hit theatrical productions create incredible, temporary moments of magic and bring together a huge range of different skills and professionals, not only from acting, writing and direction but also from design, lighting, video, sound, music, choreography, costume and more.
But do audiences understand how integral design is to these experiences? And how do designers respond to the challenge of a script and a director’s vision?
“I really like being given a beautiful, complicated piece of writing to respond to,” says Bunny Christie, “and then trying to be very free about the emotional world and atmosphere that frames it”.
Set and costume designer Bunny and video designer Finn worked together on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and explored the mind of Christopher, a 15-year-old boy with an extraordinary brain, exceptional at maths but ill-equipped to interpret everyday life.
The play adapted Mark Haddon’s international hit book and Bunny designed a very flexible set, patterned like graph paper with projections by Finn that recreate the experience of being inside Christopher’s mind.
It won seven 2013 Olivier Awards, including Best Set Design, and five 2015 Tony Awards, including Best Scenic Design.
“Bunny made this brilliant canvas for video to work on and trusted me to make something to work on it,” adds Finn. “Neither of us are precious about ideas or vulnerable to negative feedback so it makes developing new ideas frank, fun and easy.”
Early interest in theatre for Bunny came from a school drama group in St Andrews, plus seeing the inspiring production design of Phillip Prowse at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre “with very beautiful actors in the middle of the rainy, pot-holed Gorbals”.
Finn’s upbringing in remote north-eastern Scotland drew him into photography, capturing the wildness of the landscape. He then “left drama school able to do a bit of everything badly” and moved into working in video, excited by the technology “undergoing a revolution every few years”.
For both Bunny and Finn the magic of designing for the theatre comes in bringing together multiple different disciplines, skills and technical challenges, all focused on creating an impact for audiences.
“I love when set, sound, lighting, video, costume, writing, direction and movement all crystallise in one moment, making something amazing on stage that comes out of nowhere and then dissolves into the audience’s imagination,” says Finn.
For Bunny, “although the public don't always know what a designer does exactly they are often very engaged by the look and style of a show. Often it’s the visual moments that people talk about and remember.”
Their joint projects and individual work have covered a huge number of productions, with Bunny particularly proud of larger shows like Made in Dagenham and smaller productions like The Vagina Monologues or If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me which both “had an energy and an emotional punch”.
Their joint projects and individual work have covered a huge number of productions, with Bunny regularly working on large shows for the National Theatre and the West End but also enjoying the chance to work with small independent companies and in New York, creating “work that has energy and emotional punch”. Finn mentions work including The Master and Margarita for Complicite, and American Psycho for the Almeida and Broadway.
For their exceptional creative talent – and their ability to work together with so many different design disciplines to thrill audiences – we are delighted to include Bunny and Finn as Design Champions.
The V&A Dundee Design Champions are inspirational designers creating high-quality work and helping to enhance people’s lives, or champions of the power of design to improve the world.
We will announce 50 Design Champions in the run-up to the museum opening on Saturday 15 September 2018.
V&A Dundee's Design Champions project is working with Dezeen as its media partner.
Dezeen is the world’s most popular and influential architecture and design magazine, with an audience of 2.5 million unique visitors each month.