The Backpack Ensemble

(Foster, 2017)

After establishing our company name ‘The Backpack Ensemble’, and finalising the narrative of our piece, it was time to start brainstorming with design ideas. The narrative itself provided the most inspiration for the set, as our protagonist embarks on a journey through the Scottish Highlands, thus camping equipment and supplies were necessary to her journey. Such items that instantly sprang to mind were tents, poles, rope and sheets. I drew an initial sketch with a tent in the middle, four white sheets hanging from the rigging, backpacks around the tent and the music and lighting tables on either side of the stage. Originally, we were thinking of using projections for our scenery in the forest, however, due to our ethos of having everything on stage seen by our audience, the projections were to be created ourselves in the form of silhouettes.

The prop that we first began experimenting with was the bed sheet. Although this isn’t the first object one ads to their camping list, it proved to be a perfect projection screen, as it was transparent enough to let enough light through, and opaque enough to stop the light from spilling out. Throughout our piece, silhouettes were used to show rolling landscapes, the exterior of a train window, the flashbacks of Charlie’s father, and dream sequences featuring a younger version of Charlie. We used a combination of cut-out silhouettes on placed the overhead projector, and the silhouettes of people’s bodies behind the sheet to portray the visions in Charlie’s mind.

Backpack 3

(LPAC, 2017)

Furthermore, the flexibility of the bed sheet allowed us to create multiple outcomes, using the tent poles for framework and support. We were able to construct a tent by crossing the two poles and the top, tying them with string and holding the string taught at both sides. This structure proved to be a very simple one, and once prepared on the floor, we were able to lift it up using the string, revealing a symmetrical tent-shape with ease. This construction was perfect for the ‘setting up camp’ scene with Charlie and Bagman, because we wanted to transition between scenes to be short and slick.


(LPAC, 2017)

The bed sheet also became the main focus at the end of the performance, when Charlie finally finds the Albatross and the construction of the bird is revealed. The process of creating this bird wasn’t easy, it took many failed attempts at trying to recreate the mechanisms of the wings and the motion of flying. However, we finally arrived at the final method and worked out how far in advance we would need to create it on stage. In the final performance, the Albatross flew like a dream, with everyone watching in amazement and praying the elastic bands didn’t snap off! As the transferability and flexibility of our set was integral to our process, the bed sheet proved to be a successful element of choice.



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