Rainbow Man is the next epic project on the plate of designer and first time director, Dann Barber. Under the banner of his newly formed company, Goodnight Darlings, Rainbow Man will makes its appearance at fortyfivedownstairs this Thursday evening.
Along with Barber, Goodnight Darlings consists of creatives: Playwright Peter Dawncy, Composer Owen James and Costumier Christie Milton and was primarily created to stage Dawncy’s Rainbow Man. Barber reveals he has known Dawncy for a long time and is a long time admirer of his work.
“His writing is so beautiful and has been so influential to me in finding my style as a theatre maker,” says Barber. “When I first read some of Peters writing it sent me on a journey into all things the meta theatrical, fanciful and absurd.”
First and foremost, Barber is a well established production designer with many successful productions to his name – the latest, Angels in America at fortyfivedownstairs, earlier in the year.
The design team on Rainbow Man is Christie Milton’s costumes and Caitlyn Staples’ lighting with Barber on set design. He and Milton share a house, so discussion relating to the project have been relaxed. “Most choices have been made with wine,” says Barber. Milton and Barber had shared other projects throughout the year but snuck in discussions about Rainbow Man.
“Christie and Caitlyn are very important people in my life and to have the opportunity to work with them on a project that we all are in love with and is in tune with our styles and taste has been wonderful,” says Barber.
As a first time director, Barber has spent much time observing and learning from directors he has worked with, and acknowledges their assistance, but he has not lost sight of his designer roots.
“I can’t imagine directing this play if I wasn’t involved in the creative team as I am,” he says. “I approach all things from a visual point and I have with this. Creating the world as clearly as I feel we have was a strong starting point and everything else has stepped into the world so beautiful.”
Barber’s favourite part of the design is Milton’s costumes. “In particular a broken down black and white striped seaside onesie that the rainbow man wears with canned red socks,” he extols. “The image of him wearing this and dancing around a graveyard is the stuff that my dreams are made of.”
Barber charges Milton of being not just a costume designer but a crafts person. He recognizes the importance of this within the whole. “She, like me, creates the designs you see on the stage,” he says. “This is an important part about who we are as a company. Like all independent theatre we have a limited budget but our passion and love for this story has led us to craft a world that has been meticulously brought to life by much laughter and tears. To be able to work with people who can also sit around in the same collective brain is a real treat.”
For Barber, working on this project has been amazing, and it takes a team and a collective passion to make things work, but from go to woe, Barber loves it all:
“From working with people you love, making work and creating a new world that everyone is passionate about. Working with actors, as a director, for the first time and seeing how incredible their craft is. However one of my favourite parts, and something that has emotionally been quite, overpowering, has been helping to create the music for the world. I love music but I don’t really understand it.”
Barber credits Owen James as a master. “Peter and I would sit in his living room and he would ask us how do we imagine the scene or a story sounding. And I would string together some words or make some strange noise while Peter would say something poetic and then Owen would play the most majestic melody. All of the stories in ‘Rainbow Man’ have original music that Owen has written. All the characters have their own themes. The entire play is to music. Before rehearsals even began the music became part of the text and the text became part of the music. It has helped to create a world that is both visual, poetic and beautiful to listen to. I hope people can sit in fortyfivedownstairs and be swept up in the stories by all the delicious elements theatre can offer.”
November 16 – 26