Meall, Billy (8 of 8) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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Interviewee's home, Liverpool
Meall, Billy 1937- (speaker, male)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 8: Work in television via theatre contacts, and when Mersey TV started in Liverpool via designer Candida Boyce; work on painting the aftermath of an explosion at the shops; creating a sewer that had running water. Feelings about working in film and television in contrast with theatre; mention of recent job at Stanley Dock for the BBC; spending time in Wales between jobs; working on own paintings. [0:04:07] Artist friends; trips to European galleries; first nights at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. Granddaughters; mention that daughter Jocelyn started painting at a young age. [0:06:09] Re-opening of Liverpool Playhouse under a new regime; mention that daughter started to get work at The Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, now a combined organisation; LP shows designed by JM and painted by BM, ‘Bouncers’ and others; working together with JM over the years. Changes at The Everyman; recent award-winning production, ‘Unprotected’. [0:09:54] Painting after wife, Les, had died; art as therapy. Slipping back into work instead of retiring; not being able share recent successes with Les; doing more painting than designing work recently. Designing and painting pantomimes and Christmas shows over the years; BM’s approach to designing pantomimes; JM’s style of pantomime design; production weeks for pantomimes; feelings about production week in general; painting own designs and preferring a hands-on approach; starting as a student designer scrubbing buckets and boiling size. [0:17:40] Differences in materials since BM started working; canvas rather than ply flats; heavy scenery with metalwork; longer fit-up [installation] times; health and safety regulations. [0:20:04] Invitation from BE to design ‘Brick Up the Mersey Tunnel’ [BMT]; importance of songs in the show; description of the design; use of two small trucks; costume; creating a collage from photos taken from a boat on the Mersey; feeling that the best sets should not be noticed. Reading reviews; book of reviews made for BM by JM as a young girl; feeling that the design should not upstage the play; production week for BMT; success of first preview; problems prior to that during dress rehearsal; plan for reviving BMT. Feelings about Liverpool as a city; friendliness. [0:30:17] Advice to young designers; importance of practical skills. Plans for the next few years; reasons for making this recording; feelings about the process of being interviewed; recently meeting an old friend from theatre. Feeling that the interview process has been cathartic; story about being interviewed for a local radio station’s version of Desert Island Discs; interview for the BBC about ‘Huckleberry Finn’; being interviewed at home.
Life story interview with Billy Meall (????-), theatre designer.