Leslie Travers, designer on our current production TWELFTH NIGHT, talks about the working on the show and his creative process.

I think TWELFTH NIGHT is a play about living in the moment. It's about gender, it's about love. It's about being free. It's about dropping the chains of the past and living your life in the present and then moving forward. We meet each character when their life is about to change.

I think Shakespeare had this incredible insight into what it is to be human. He writes about what it is to have frail emotions, what it is to fall in love, and ultimately about the complex nature of love. Love always carries the potential of loss. How do we deal with the loss of that, and how do we get over it, move on and live again? Shakespeare is saying to us “Seize the day, live your life, live in the now.”

I love this play. It's a very exciting thing to design. It's also very demanding because the journey in the piece, the story and the narrative is complex.

I wanted to work within the poetry of the piece. It was important for me to not work in a naturalistic way. Twelfth Night moves very fluidly through the world of Illyria and the lives of the characters within in. It's really important in a space like this, a theatre-in-the-round, not to hold the narrative up but to allow it to move freely with pace and with dynamism.

Shakespeare is very selective about the information he gives you, about where you are. It's important not to over-elaborate and fill in the gaps that Shakespeare has chosen to leave out, and allow the audience to be invited into the performance. The design is a catalyst for the experience and for other people's experiences, rather than something that limits how you should feel about this play.

Above the stage you see a sculptural element. I don't want to say exactly what it means because it has many meanings. Some people call it the whirligig, some people call it the nest; I call it the knot. It's all those things. It's reminiscent of a shipwreck, it's reminiscent of a sort of a time machine, of a tornado, of a weather event. Those natural forces cannot be stopped.

This is the first theatre I ever came to at the age of seven. I thought it was wondrous and magical and I couldn't quite understand how the actors and the public shared the same world, walked through the same doorways. It's very different from a conventional proscenium arch theatre. Suddenly that made me, as a child, think maybe I want to be involved in this world. I think this place is incredibly special in that way.

I hope the audience have a really enjoyable evening. I hope they laugh a lot. I hope they get carried along with the story. If we've done our job correctly, the story should be in many ways very clear and the language very understandable and immediate.

I think the pace of this piece is very invigorating and exciting and it's joyous. We have a world that's full of music as well as a world where there's a poetic visual language. I'm always interested in what the audience say about things because I can make something, but then it's up to them to experience it and their interpretation of it is always exciting to hear.


Twelfth Night runs at the Royal Exchange until 20 May - More Info