The set designer is responsible for creating the scenery of a production. They work closely through the script with the director and the other designers to create a coherent and fitting environment in which the play can take place. A good set should not only consider where the play takes place physically and historically, but should complement the tone, themes, and relationships in the play in its structure, colour scheme, and details.
A classic ‘drawing room play’, for example, is not just a requirement for some chairs and tables but requires many considerations: is it a custom-decorated house of a homeowner or a generic student room or rented flat? What kind of colours would this character like? Do they buy their furniture new from IKEA or do they prefer antiques? Is their house elaborately furnished or can the characters only afford the bare minimum? Do they live a chaotic, messy life or are they extremely tidy and organised? Is their house homely or is it a statement of wealth? What kind of books would they have on their bookshelf? Should the room fit the tone of the play, or uncomfortably jar with it?
The designer will also need to look at the technical specifications of the venue and consider how their set can be used to compliment the venue and the staging. After the planning stages which may include sketches, mood boards, digitally assisted drawings, and a model box the designer then looks into sourcing the set pieces required by buying them new or second hand, hiring (often from the TAFF Props Store), or constructing them. Constructed sets are uncommon in Oxford theatre due to space restrictions in and outside the venues and the carpentry skills required to make safe and attractive sets, but if the designer is constructing a set they may choose to have construction assistants and a scenic artist. When making a set of any scale, it is necessary to think about the safety and practicalities of the set throughout the process. All flats need to be appropriately braced to prevent them falling over, all suspended items need to be secure and not obstructing any rigged lights, and all deck or rostra need to be properly and safely assembled and fitted with handrails if appropriate.