Chesterfield News

Chesterfield student recognised for top talent at northern art school degree show

A gifted student from Chesterfield has put her talents on display and been rewarded for all her hard work at the opening night of the annual degree show at Cleveland College of Art and Design (CCAD).

21-year-old Hannah Postlethwaite from Chesterfield is a final year student on the BA (Hons) Production Design for Stage and Screen degree at the leading northern art school, based in Hartlepool on the north east coast.

For her final major project, which is now being featured at the degree show, Hannah was given an exclusive ‘live’ assignment by Opera North – England’s national opera company in the North and one of Europe’s leading arts organisations – to design a theatre set for La Boheme.

Earlier in her studies, Hannah’s talent secured a week of work experience at Opera North with the prop making department during the second year of her degree in 2016. At the end of the week the arts organisation said they liked working with her and the following January they asked Hannah to come in for a week’s paid work, which turned into a week and a half, and then again in September 2017 for almost three weeks.

Hannah said:-

“I learned a great deal while there; including just how fast you have to work. At college you might have the luxury of spending a couple of days or even a week making a prop, but in the real world you’ve got a couple of hours. What I enjoy the most, aside from working with a great team, is the feeling I get knowing a piece of work I have made is being used on stage. I get a great buzz from that.

“So I approached Opera North about my final major project, as I knew I wanted to do a theatre design. I had gained a good relationship with the people there so they were more than happy to get involved. They gave me an option of three operas to choose from and I chose La Boheme.”

Hannah conducted two presentations at Opera North’s home theatre in Leeds, the first with a white card model of her interpretation of the classic opera set design. This was followed by a second formal presentation with the complete project and a description of each act, scenery, props, characters and costumes. In a surprise twist, Hannah took the setting of the original romantic opera from 18th Century Paris to Havana in 1962 during the Cuban missile crisis, and as part of the brief, she qualified the reasons behind her choice.

For the updated interpretation of the set design, Hannah chose this location as it was a visually romantic city with dramatic architecture, music and art, which matches the passion of the original play set in France. A radio on stage would also reflect the passage of time with news bulletins to reduce the need for set changes, alongside an image of JFK as a visual metaphor for the political climate.

She continued:-

“However, there were challenges, as Cuba is a warm country and La Boheme is set in the winter in Paris with the first song highlighting the bitterly cold weather. So I created a set with props which emphasised the ‘cold’ revolutionary period of the time during the missile crisis and hostile civil unrest. I also featured images of Fidel Castro ‘burning’ instead of a fire for the actors to sit around, which Opera North really liked as it represented the idea of the location being ‘politically warm’.

The presentation to Opera North highlighted the different set design changes and Hannah’s understanding of the challenges faced for the production team, which she had learned during her two years’ experience with the company. Following the final model presentation, Opera North is now considering costing the whole show to see if it is within budget.

Of the build up to degree show, Hannah said:-

“After focusing on my final presentation at the Opera North, which did require many 12 hour days at college and a lot of late nights, I then prepared for the degree show. It has been great to show my family and friends what I’ve been up to and celebrate with my course mates, and very exciting!”

After graduation, Hannah is planning to move back home to Chesterfield and begin her career as a freelance prop maker, as she has developed industry connections with companies and other prop makers in the Midlands. She also would to carry on designing theatre, and plans to use her design for Opera North to apply for the Linbury Prize – the UK’s most prestigious award for Stage Design.

Pat Chapman, Vice Principal, Employability and External Relations, said:-

“This is always an exciting time of the year as students end their three years of study and look to the future. The degree show is a celebration of the creative talent our students have developed and marks the transition to employment or post graduate study.

“This year’s graduates have bright futures, establishing themselves in industry and establishing their own businesses. They will continue our incredible record for employability which has seen 96 percent or more of graduates in employment or further study for each of the past four years, a record that places the College amongst the very highest performing universities nationally. This year also marks the final time CCAD will put on a graduate show as from next year we will have adopted our new identity as The Northern School of Art.”

Students exhibited works from ten degree courses as part of the ‘Northern View’ exhibition at the northern art school’s university-level campus in Hartlepool, including fashion, fine art, illustration and creative film.

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