Brian Thomson is Australia's most acclaimed stage designer. Born and educated in Sydney, he studied architecture at UNSW in the late Sixties, and was part of a close circle of friends that included director Jim Sharman. In 1971-72 he designed the original London and Australian productions of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. His stark and striking design for the Australian stage production set new standards for Australian musical theatre. The centerpiece an hydraulically articulated dodecahedron, had a distant ancestor in the prop Brian designed for the 1967 Architecture Ball, starring The Masters Apprentices. This was a giant dice in which the band were wheeled out into the hall, hidden inside, at which point it exploded open and the band jumped out and began playing.

His next major design was for the original London production of The Rocky Horror Show (as well as productions in Los Angeles, Sydney, New York, Oslo and touring productions in the UK, USA, Australia and Japan). "Brian Thomson's blue-canvassed cinema-under-demolition set turned virtually every theatre or old cinema we played in into a tent."(Jim Sharman)

"I feel like I still own a piece of that show though I don't get anything [royalties] any more." He shrugs. "Richard formed a company back in the 80s or 90s and completely just cut us out. Look, I say this without any hesitation that Jim Sharman, with help from me, created The Rocky Horror Show to the point that Jim gave it the title." (Brian Thomson)

Other musicals include Chicago, Richard O'Brien's The Stripper (which Thomson also directed), Company, Chess and Falsettos, Barry Humphries' Housewife, Superstar!!! in London and New York, Steel City (opening season Sydney Star City Casino, 1998 Australian Tour, 1999 Radio City Music Hall), and Happy Days, the Arena Mega Musical.

For producer John Frost and The Adelaide Festival Centre he designed the award-winning settings for The King and I and in 2000 in London's West End (for which he was awarded a 1992 Victorian Green Award), How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, South Pacific, Hello, Dolly! and Grease - the arena spectacular.

As a production designer for film and television his credits include SHIRLEY THOMPSON VS THE ALIENS (1972), directed by Jim Sharman and produced by Matt Carroll, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) with  Sharman directing; STARSTRUCK, TURTLE BEACH and FRAUDS. He designed and directed the short feature NIGHT OF SHADOWS and received the AFI Best Production Design Awards for REBEL and GROUND ZERO. For television, he designed the mini-series HILLS END', SHADOW OF THE COBRA ( based on Richard Neville’s book about serial killer Charles Sobraj) and BARLOW AND CHAMBERS: A LONG WAY FROM HOME.

Opera designs include Death in Venice and The Makropulos Affair for the State Opera of South Australia, Love Burns for the Seymour Group, Aida and Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll for Victorian State Opera, Voss, Summer Of The Seventeenth Doll, Death In Venice, Tristan und Isolde, Katya Kabanova and The Eighth Wonder for the Australian Opera and Billy Budd for the Australian Opera/Welsh National Opera. Brian has designed settings for more productions in the Sydney Opera House than any other designer, and has designed numerous productions for the Sydney Theatre Company and Belvoir Street Theatre.

Brian has also designed rock videos for Mental As Anything, The Hoodoo Gurus and Apollonia 6 (a long form video produced by Prince which Brian directed, designed and co-wrote), designed the controversial Bicentenary Birthday Cake and directed and designed the 1991 Australian Film Awards presentation. He also designed Kylie Minogue’s 1998 Australian / UK Tour) Kylie Minogue - Intimate and Live concert. He was supervising designer for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games closing Ceremony (which used the famous dodecahedron he originally designed for the Sydney production of Superstar) and also designed the medal podiums and was production designer for the 2001 Centenary of Federation ceremony.

Among his numerous awards Brian has received the 1989, 1992, 1993 and 1994 Sydney Theatre Critics Circle Awards as Best Designer and the 1994 and 1995 Mo Awards for his Contribution to Musical Theatre. In 1996 he earned Broadway's highest honours for his scenic designs for the acclaimed Broadway revivial of The King and I, winning the 1996 Outer Critic Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award and the 1996 Tony Award.

http://www.milesago.com/people/thomson-brian.htm

 

http://www.rockymusic.org/vinyl/stripper.html

 

Broadway:
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (1975)
HOUSEWIFE SUPERSTAR!! (1977)

Film and TV:
SHIRLEY THOMPSON VS THE ALIENS (1972)
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
STARSTRUCK
SHOCK TREATMENT
REBEL
GROUND ZERO
TURTLE BEACH
FRAUDS
NIGHT OF SHADOWS
HILLS END
SHADOW OF THE COBRA
BARLOW AND CHAMBERS: A LONG WAY FROM  HOME

Opera:
State Opera of South Australia

DEATH IN VENICE
THE MAKROPULOS AFFAIR

The Seymour Group
LOVE BURNS

Victorian State Opera
AIDA
SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL

The Australian Opera
VOSS
SUMMER OF THE SEVENTEENTH DOLL
DEATH IN VENICE
TRISTAN AND ISOLDE
KATYA KABANOVA
THE EIGHTH WONDER

Australian Opera/Welsh National Opera
BILLY BUDD

State Opera of South Australia
DEATH IN VENICE
The MAKROPULOS AFFAIR

State Theatre Company SA
LULU
SHEPHERD ON THE ROCKS
CROW

 

London stage:
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW (original production)
TEE ZEE

Australian stage:
HAIR (1969)
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (1972)
ROCKY HORROR SHOW (1974)
CHICAGO
COMPANY
CHESS
SOUTH PACIFIC
HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING!
HELLO DOLLY!

Sydney Theatre Company:

THE WHITE DEVIL
AFTER THE BALL
A CHEERY SOUL
MACBETH
THE DOLL TRILOGY
THE HAM FUNERAL
THE CRUCIBLE
UNCLE VANYA
DEATH AND THE MAIDEN
SIX DEGREES OF SEPERATION
THIRD WORLD BLUES

Company B Belvoir
SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER
BURNT PIANO
THE TEMPEST
THE MASTER BUILDER
AFTERSHOCKS
RADIANCE
UP THE ROAD

bride

 

 

 

 

 

If you ask a fan of Rocky Horror, what the story is about, they will usually start with, "there's this young couple called Brad and Janet...."
This answer is the result of decades of being removed from its source material.

When I was told recently, that I must be the only fan who cares more about the venue and set, than the play, it got me thinking.
Suddenly I got a break, all the pieces seemed to fit into place, what a sucker I'd been, what a fool, the answer was there all the time.
Yes the venue and set are all important.

The story is about a cinema under demolition, where an usherette is still hanging around. She greets the audience with a song about her love of 50s sci-fi movies, before playing out her fantasy using the cinema and herself as the maid.
Once she's told her tale, she returns to being an usherette, only with tell tale signs,that what she's just shown you, did happen, in a Wizard of Oz way.

Take the show out of a cinema, play down the usherette, remove the rubble, change the song order and dialogue, and you get a story about a young couple ......

Not seeing the show play in its original form, loses the point of the show.

Some patrons thought that the inside of the cinema was just "as is" and have complained that there was no set.
In most cases the entire stage, including the proscenium, were built. The cinema's real stages and some of the seating area were behind a false front, designed to look like a cinema stage and screen, reducing the seating to around 600.

Depending on the size of the auditorium, the set was scaled up, or down.
Melbourne had the largest set, and longest catwalk. Housed in an enormous movie palace, the set was upscaled to fit its width. The platform with the coke machine was up four stairs on the left, and the scaffolding holding the lab, ran down the right side. The band had their own area, above and behind the coke area.

The Roxy had the smallest version of the set. Being a nightclub and not a cinema, it had a much lower ceiling, and was half the width. With only one door, the ramp couldn't be completed till everyone was seated, at tables and chairs.
Because the room is so narrow, both the coke machine and the lab are housed as one, and no hospital bed, all on the left platform. The band took up the right side, and the ramp had to be off centre.
The canvas partially covered the interior, where in Australia it entombed the audience.

These mock up photos, to scale, show the size differences. the Roxy at the top, the Regent Palace Melbourne middle, Adelaide at the bottom.

SET VARIATIONS

set
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