Playing with Scale

Woman holds 1:25 scale model of an astronomical model, an armillary sphere, on her outstretched palm
Scale models of the props and furniture Jocelyn Herbert designed for Galileo have recently been restored by Tabitha Austin, a student on the MA Conservation course at Camberwell College of Art.

‘Playing with Scale’ is a major new exhibition at the National Theatre from November 2018 to March 2019 on how theatre designers use set models.

The exhibition explores why designers make scale models and brings attention to their collaborative work with directors, scenic artists, actors and designers of lighting and projection.
The main part of the exhibition, in the Wolfson Gallery next to the Olivier cloakroom, focuses on the Olivier stage. The exhibition shows how important models were for architect Denys Lasdun, who designed the Olivier, and how six designers have responded in very different ways to this unique space.
There are archive models of two productions from the early days of the new theatre: The Plough and the Stars (set designed by Geoffrey Scott, 1977) and The Life of Galileo (Jocelyn Herbert, 1980).
Four more recent productions continue the dialogue with the Olivier: Antigone (2012, designer Soutra Gilmour), The Comedy of Errors (2011, designer Bunny Christie), Exit the King (2018, designer Anthony Ward), and Antony and Cleopatra (2018, designer Hildegard Bechtler).
The exhibition includes a reading room with books on models, theatre design and practical model-making, and an invitation to make your own scale model figure. Exhibition tours and talks include:
  • a talk on 20 November by Thea Brejzek, researcher and co-author with Lawrence Wallen of The Model as Performance. Details here.
  • a tour as part of the ‘Staging the Real’ one-day conference on 28 November. Details here.
  • a curator’s tour on 1 December. Details here.
  • a discussion on how designers use model boxes on 10 December. Details here.


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