When the Birds Sang: A Quilted Landscape

26 May ’23

(Main image photo credit: Mark Savage)
In this blog by Designer Edwina Bridgeman, she describes the central ideas in terms of the design for When the Birds Sang and about the importance of quilts to our story.

I have been really aware designing the set and costume for When the Birds Sang that I needed to create a space that not only left plenty of space for the dancers but also plenty of space for the audience.  It is an abstracted space that can be both indoors and outdoors.

We started with the idea of a quilt and talked about transitional objects and things made by hand as an expression of love. Often quilts have a narrative quality, the pieced fabrics linking family members through time. I realised that the quilt is also like the landscape from above, our landscape as a bird may see it. This piecing together became the theme for the set. We repurposed an existing silk back drop, cutting it up and re-piecing so that it reflects the quilt but is very different in colour weight and texture. I felt that it was important that it has an ethereal quality, it represents a place beyond which is important for the story.  The drawing on the floor is taken from an ancient field map of the landscape where I live.

I had never made a big quilt but had been very inspired by the quilts of Gees Bend and was excited to make something that was so central to the design. I thought about my own family history and realised that I had a threadbare embroidered cushion of a bird embroidered by my grandmother 80 years earlier. It was the starting point, from there I included pieces of my childhood curtains which were patterned with birds and as much found material that I could lay my hands on!

The quilt grew and grew, finding its own rhythm. When the time came to actually quilt the fabric which we did by hand the quilt changed again as it ruched and bunched. I was excited to share the quilt with the company and watch it become, through the skills of the dancers, almost another character within the piece.

Painting the dancefloor at Travelling Light Theatre Company venue

Painting the dancefloor at Travelling Light Theatre Company (Photo credit: Edwina Bridgeman)

A person working on a quilt (Photo credit: Jess Jones)

Edwina Bridgeman working on the quilt. (Photo credit Jess Jones)

When the Birds Sang has been co-produced by leading children’s theatre companies Theatre Hullabaloo and Travelling Light Theatre Company. This breath-taking dance theatre show combines beautiful dance, epic music and captivating storytelling to celebrate the power of imagination. Find out more here.