5 Minutes with Kate Bunce | The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat

We spoke to set designer Kate Bunce about how she brought Julia Donaldson’s story and Charlotte Voake’s illustrations to life on stage for The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat.

What was your starting point for designing the set?
The book was the starting point. The director Greta and I had a good chat about the themes, story and style of the book. I then gathered a board of inspirational pictures of boats, trees, beaches, textures, patchworks and costumes. I then drew and painted lots of sketches of various ideas to discuss with Greta.

How did Julia Donaldson’s words and Charlotte Voake’s illustrations inform your designs?
Designing a show based on a book is wonderful – particularly this book! It’s a great starting point and reference. Both Greta and I absolutely loved Charlotte Voake’s beautiful watercolour illustrations and Julia Donaldson’s text is so rich with gorgeous visual descriptions.

I decided on a similar watercolour effect of blues, pinks and browns. We wanted the set and costume to capture the charming, romantic, quirky quality of the book. Using natural materials like rope, canvas, velvet added to that bygone feel.

You create several different landscapes in the show, from the Bong-tree glade to the Chankly Bore. How did you go about this?
We wanted the set to be revealed and changed before our eyes. It’s lovely watching the actors moving and changing the scenes whilst revealing the story and the Owl and Pussy-cat’s journey.

I decided on an overall beautiful landscape of the blue backdrop and beach floor cloth. This was a great base to hold all the scene changes within it. I then played with lots of different ideas but quickly decided that it was perfect to have a boat become so many different locations from journeying boats to the Bong-tree glade to the Chankly Bore rocks and the Pobble’s hill as it’s so central to the Owl and the Pussy-cat’s story.

I am always very excited about using scale and loved using large, medium and mini boat sizes, creating a Russian doll effect. This mini boat and mini puppets really enhanced the moments of going on a long journey across the sky in the hot air balloon.

What led you to becoming a set designer?
I loved art and drama at school. I’d never really heard of a theatre designer as we didn’t visit the theatre as a kid but heard a distant relative worked in theatre. My dad painted pictures of the countryside so knew you might be able to do art as a hobby but not as a job! I thought this sounded very other worldly and I loved the idea of mixing all the things I loved into one pot! I liked the thought of creating a picture on stage.

I did an art foundation course after A levels which was brilliant as we experimented with all sorts of art techniques and styles. This confirmed I wanted to do theatre design so I gained a place at university and did lots of work placements and worked with other young theatre makers at the time and have worked designing since. I’m pleased I heard about that distant relative!

The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-cat is on at Little Angel Theatre from 27 September – 17 November. To find out more and book tickets, click here.