HISTORY

Philip started his design career studying Theatre Crafts at Cleveland College of Art and Design in the North East of England. He then went on to study Theatre Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and after graduating from his Degree in 1996 he was invited by the eminent director and designer Philip Prowse to work at The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.

 

The Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

 

At this time 'The Citz' ran an annual placement for a selected graduate to join the design team under the guidance of the then head of design, Kenny Miller. The experience of working in this incredibly dynamic building, surrounded by extraordinary actors, directors and designers was the single most significant and defining moment in Philip's career as the legacy of the Citizens Theatre, its famous design aesthetic and the work created by Giles Havergal, Philip Prowse and Robert David Macdonald has had a far-reaching impact on Philip's subsequent development as a designer.

 

 Philip Prowse, Giles Havergal and Robert David Macdonald

 

In studying Theatre Design at Degree level Philip found that,  although he was very aware of the necessity to develop the practical skills needed to become a rounded designer, he was inevitably frustrated designing scale models of productions that would simply never exist. It wasn't until this experience in Glasgow, learning from such talented visual artists creating intelligent and beautifully executed designs that skillfully communicated stories with effortless style and all on small budgets that Philip understood just how thrilling this medium could be.

After a year in Glasgow, and with his first professional design job under his belt, Widower's Houses directed by Giles Havergal, Philip returned refocused to London to study under Philip Prowse on the Theatre Design M.A at The Slade School of Fine Art. This was an opportunity to harness the experience of being part of a working theatre, together with a new found freedom to be able to respond to dramatic texts without the previous restrictions of creating scale models of 'fantasy' productions.


Philip at the Slade School of Fine Art, 1999

 

At The Slade students were encouraged to respond to the source material in any medium they chose and Philip's centrepiece for his final exhibition drew influence from American installation artist Edward Kienholtz, producing a large sculptural triptych based on Friedrich Durrenmatt's dark morality play The Visit. Philip graduated from The Slade School of Fine Art with a 1st (distinction) and later privately exhibited and sold much of his final show at The London Contempory Art Fair. On the basis of Philip's work at The Slade he was then selected to compete for the prestigious Linbury Prize for Stage Design culminating in an exhibition of his designs at The Royal National Theatre in London. 

Since The Citizens Theatre, Philip's work has been nominated for multiple 'Best Design' awards both nationally and internationally, working on commissions for a diverse array of companies. Philip's designs have an epic and an operatic sense of scale and ambition with a central emphasis on visual story telling. His design aesthetic fluidly reinvents itself from project to project, however the work has a unique identity that illuminates a story through its cultural context and visual metaphor. His ability to strip back all that is visually unnecessary, creating landscapes that transform and dissolve with ease crafts a poetry of objects, architecture and spaces for stories to be told within, events to happen upon and for actors to inhabit. All this without necessarily being bound by a strict code of naturalism, but a design aesthetic that seeks to be released, to express a story to an audience through a broader and more poetic brush stroke.

An integral part of Philip's working practice is the value and importance he places on his collaborations with other creatives. In understanding the impact that a clear holistic vision and strong cross departmental involvement can bring to a project and a building, Philip is committed to consistently engage and inspire the teams he works with and values the fundamental relationships that are essential to the integrity of the design and success of a production.


Regents Park Open Air Theatre