Wonderland - An interview with Morgan Large

Wednesday 30th January 2019

With Wonderland returning to our stage in just over a week, we caught up with Morgan Large about the set design and winning a UK Theatre award…

Congratulations on winning the UK Theatre Award for Best Design for Wonderland in 2018. How did it feel to win the award?

Thank you so much! It is a complete honour to have won the award. I really didn’t expect to win it, so it came as a total shock.

The set design is stunning. What were the main stages in your design process?

From a design point of view, Beth’s brilliant play reads as being pretty epic. There are multiple locations to visit, both above and below ground, but also quite a few special effects that need to be achieved throughout the play. Most scenes flow into each other seamlessly in an almost filmic way, so Adam and I knew that whatever space we created had to allow the actors to arrive and disappear in an instant. I also wanted to create an environment where there was a distinct divide between the world of the politicians versus the world of the miners. Clothing, lighting and props also really help us to tell the audience where we are at a particular point.

Did you work with any ex-miners, mining communities or mining museums during the design process?

Our starting point was to visit the National Mining Museum for England in Overton, near Wakefield. This trip was hugely influential in our process when designing Wonderland. The tours of the pit are led by ex-miners from the local area so you get a real first-hand account of life down the pit and its terrible conditions. It’s also possible to begin to understand the camaraderie and the incredible pride and respect the miners held for the pit, their fellow miners, and their communities above ground. We were in pretty much constant contact with the museum and representatives of the local mining communities when we were trying to recreate the conditions of Welbeck Colliery.

What was the most important part of the writer’s vision that you wanted to capture on stage?

Beth’s play is based on true stories from the not too distant past. We were also bringing this piece back to the communities who lived through these events, I felt it to be incredibly important to try and portray these people as honestly as we possibly could.

How did it feel when you first saw the set brought to life on stage?

The set was built by the brilliant team of artists at The Nottingham Playhouse Workshop, and in its elemental stage the pieces were laid side by side on the floor; it completely filled the huge workshop, and looked like the surface of the moon. We will never be able to replicate the sheer scale of a working mine on stage, but when I first saw the vastness of the set versus the scale of a human, it was quite a humbling experience. It was also quite a relief, as up until that point, we weren’t sure if it was going to work, as none of us had attempted anything quite like it before, so it was uncharted territory.

To find out more, or to book tickets to see Wonderland, click here.