Take Five With… Simone Romaniuk

– Pepa Wolfe
Take Five With… Simone Romaniuk

One of David Williamson’s most celebrated plays, The Removalists, is set to make a return to the Brisbane stage as one of the QTC’s education performances. An examination of police corruption, domestic violence and sexism in 1970s Australia, this new production begs the question, “How far have we really come?”

Working to recreate the look and feel of those times is production designer Simone Romaniuk, an Affiliate Artist with the QTC this year. A graduate of both NIDA and the Queensland College of Art, and with credits that span film, television and especially theatre, including the STC, Pacific Opera and Sydney Dance Company among others, Romaniuk took a break from the slightly abstract set and retro furnishings of The Removalists to share some insight with Life Music Media.

Tell us a bit about this production of The Removalists.
We have set this production as originally written in 1971. Looking at the play forty years after it was first performed, it’s interesting to compare the portrayal of police violence and corruption, and men and women’s roles in Australian society, with today’s attitudes, and how much things have and haven’t changed.

As the designer, approaching what is undeniably an iconic piece of Australian theatre, where do you start?
As with most work, the starting point really is the script, identifying themes and developing a space that will support the actors as well. Next comes a lot of research into late sixties and early seventies Australia.

Originally written and set in the 1970s, what challenges does this present – and what freedoms?
The main challenge was sourcing furniture and clothing from the period, it can be hard to find exactly the right thing in a short timeframe. Freedoms in this case involve using a lot of vivid patterning as well as brown, yellow and orange colour schemes seldom used on stage…

Is there an Australianness to the design?
The research and groundwork was specifically into suburban Australia, so this would have informed some design choices.

How do the prevailing themes of violence and corruption influence the look and feel of the production?
The set is a slightly abstracted room, placed so that it floats, isolated within the large stage space. It is painted in a visually heavy, dark brown finish, which partially obscures a light floral wallpaper motif, creating a visual tension and conflict within the space.

You’ve worked in the Bille Brown Studio before. What makes it such a great theatre, and are there any joys or challenges in working with the space?
It’s a great space – there is a very large stage area, so lots of room to play with from a design perspective, and the raked seating bank means the audience is still relatively close.

:: What is your favourite play? ::
Just far too hard to choose.

:: Who is your favourite designer?::
Part of a shortlist – Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander McQueen, Antoni Gaudi

:: What has been the most rewarding production of your career, and why? ::
I don’t think I’ve worked on a production that hasn’t been rewarding in some way. Whether a large or small show, there is always something that has been fascinating to learn, or wonderful people to have met and collaborated with, or a sense of satisfaction at solving a difficult problem.

:: What is the most memorable production or performance you have seen?
Something that really inspired you. ::

‘Push’, a triple bill dance production choreographed by Russell Maliphant with dancer Sylvie Guillem. Her solo piece called ‘Two’ was hypnotic – subtle and spectacular at the same time.

:: Favourite recording artist? ::
Current favourite – The Gossip. Old favourites – David Bowie, Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson.

:: Favourite album? ::
Lost Highway soundtrack

:: Favourite food? ::
Risotto. Potatoes.

:: Favourite drink? ::
Coffee. Wine.

:: Favourite place? ::
Berlin. Or home.

:: Favourite season? ::
Summer at night, winter during the day.

:: Recommend a book ::
A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz.

:: Recommend a film ::
The Piano. Scott Pilgrim vs the world. A Clockwork Orange.

:: Recommend a website ::
The Sartorialist. Regretsy. A softer world.

:: Words of wisdom ::
Never assume.

What’s next for Simone Romaniuk?
Craziness with The Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm, then more shows, more design presentations for shows next year, and hopefully some travel in between.

The Removalists plays at the Bille Brown Theatre from 21 July – 6 August 2011

General public performances (2011):
Saturday 23 July (7.30pm), Saturday 30 July (7.30pm), Saturday 6 August (7.30pm)

– Pepa Wolfe

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