Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Julian Crouch is a director, designer, writer, maker, teacher, illustrator and musician, whose career has spanned theatre, opera, ballet, film and television.
Initially a mask and puppet maker, he co-founded the Improbable Theatre Company in the mid-1990s, with which he gained far-reaching recognition. With Improbable, Julian co-created, co-directed and designed the multi-award winning play Shockheaded Peter. His opera work includes set design and associate direction for Satyagraha at the English National Opera and The Met Opera, and the staging of the Met Opera’s 125th Anniversary Gala. On Broadway, Julian worked on The Addams Family musical and Big Fish among others, and his recent set design for Hedwig And The Angry Inch earned him a Tony nomination.
This June, he is working with award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon once again on a very special production of Cinderella in-the-round at the Royal Albert Hall.
Hoping to get a sneak peek, we had a chat with the multi-talented artist:
YOU’VE WORKED WITH CHRISTOPHER WHEELDON ON PRODUCTIONS LIKE THE NUTCRACKER BEFORE. WHAT IS YOUR WORKING RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM LIKE?
Chris is a remarkable artist, and has a great eye on every aspect of his productions. He always likes to bring something new to his classical ballets, while retaining the spirit of the old. So the audience always get what they desire, but simultaneously they are delightfully surprised at how it is delivered. This makes our collaborations a delight for me, as he encourages innovation, and a fresh approach. I am particularly honored that Chris asks me to design the costumes in addition to the set. As costumes for ballet are technically demanding this is a exciting and rare challenge for me.
HOW IS ADAPTING CINDERELLA IN-THE-ROUND AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL DIFFERENT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE AS A SET DESIGNER? DID ANY CHALLENGES OR NEWFOUND POSSIBILITIES APPEAR?
We initially designed Cinderella as a proscenium arch show for the theaters of the Dutch National and San Francisco ballets. As the Royal Albert Hall is a round building, it sets a completely different challenge, and almost all of the scenery from the previous version had to be re-conceived. The role of projection has been increased for this version. Fortunately there are a number of trucked units that suit the Royal Albert Hall perfectly, and of course the architecture of the Hall itself lends an epic grandeur to the palace and ballroom scenes. The scale of the venue requires additional dancers so of course there are more costumes! And we have a larger chandelier!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THIS PRODUCTION OF CINDERELLA?
I love that our production draws on the darker origins of the Cinderella tale, and its deep connection to the mysteries of nature. The death of Cinderella’s mother and her incarnation as a tree spirit creates a poignant backbone through our version of the ballet. My first job in theatre was as a mask maker so this also gave me the opportunity to use the kind of imagery that is not often seen in productions of Cinderella.
IF YOU COULD WORK ON ANOTHER SHOW HERE AT THE HALL, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHOOSE?
Hm. That’s quite a question! My first thought is that it would be a great place to do a production of Oh What A Lovely War, but I’m not sure why that popped into my head.
ANY SURPRISES WE CAN LOOK FORWARD TO?
I think there are many surprises that the audience could look forward to but unfortunately they would no longer be surprises if I told you what they were! All I will add is that our puppetry associate Basil Twist brings some delightful ingenuity and creative genius to our carriage scene.
By Clara Michel
Cinderella, at the Royal Albert Hall from 06-16 June 2019.