Fred's Fairy Dell
Saturday, 17th January 2004
Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary
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first scene I've to paint for our local amateur production of Snow
White is the opening one: a fairy dell. In fact, thanks to
a slight twist in the old tradition of pantomime, the fairy is played
by Fred, in a pink dress, complete with wings. But magic is magic
and we want this scene to get people into a mood where they suspend
disbelief for the evening. With Fred in his pink dress, that's going
to take some doing.
He has a pink-with-gold-spots fly agaric toadstool to sit on, in
the centre of the scene.
My first thought as to how to paint the backdrop was that fairies
are associated with life and growth. I thought of Richard
Dadd's Victorian vision The Fairy Feller's Master Stroke
(1855-64) set amongst the grasses on an intensely observed patch
of the woodland floor. Too sinsister. And I thought of Shakespeare's:
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Act ii. Sc.
No, that's going to be a bit too botanical and, away from my computer
and books, I can't think what sort of plant eglantine is. I start
sketching the tendrils and fruits (above) but realise
this is going to be too fussy. The design runs across a screen of
four 8 ft flats. I need some structure.
With A Midsummer Night's Dream at the back
of my mind it seems obvious that the structure in a woodland scene
would be provided by a tree. As Treebeard the Ent
has recently appeared in The Lord of the Rings movies perhaps
the audience could accept that a tree could be a friendly familiar
of a fairy, not a scary haunted old oak. But, no, it has too much
of a Halloween look to it.
So this is more or less how it turned out: a kind
of bower, bedecked with buttercups and bluebells (there's a Fairy
Buttercup and a Fairy Bluebell in the story) and some giant-sized
purple agarics as bookends, framing the central one. That should
hint at the sort of mass-hallucigenic sort of evening of entertainment
the audience should expect . . .
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