Sean Kenny (theatre designer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sean Kenny
Born 23 December 1929
Portroe, County Tipperary, Ireland
Died 11 June 1973 (aged 43)
London, UK
Nationality Irish
Occupation Scenic, costume and lighting designer (theatre and film)
Spouse(s) Jan Walker
Judy Huxtable
Partner(s) Judy Geeson (1969–1973)
Children 3 sons (Mac, Shane, and Mark)
Awards 1963 Tony Award
Best Scenic Designer for the New York production of Oliver!

Sean Kenny (23 December 1929 – 11 June 1973) was an Irish theatre and film scenic designer, costume designer, lighting designer and director. Kenny was most notable as the set designer for the musicals of Lionel Bart including Oliver!, Lock Up Your Daughters, and Blitz!.

Life[edit]

Kenny was born in Portroe, County Tipperary, Ireland in 1929. While he was still an architecture student, at the age of 20, Kenny and three others sailed from Ireland to New York in a 36' sailboat, "The Ituna" in 1950.[1]

Kenny was a contributor to The Establishment, a standup satire and jazz club in London founded by Peter Cook and Nicholas Luard.[2]

In 1966, Kenny married model Judy Huxtable. She later described him as "regularly unfaithful," and left him to marry Peter Cook.[3]

Following his divorce, Kenny lived with the actress Judy Geeson until his sudden death from a heart attack and brain haemorrhage at the age of 43. In Stoned by Andrew Loog Oldham, Oldham pays tribute to Kenny as one of the brilliant and original minds working in London theatre in the 1960s, particularly for his work on Lionel Bart's musicals Oliver! and Lock Up Your Daughters.[4]

In Stoned, Kenny's partner Judy Geeson pays this tribute to him: "Sean had an unusual combination of abilities: he had the creativity to dream up a design. But he also had a brilliant engineer's brain so he didn't only dream it, he knew how to make it."[5]

Design style[edit]

Kenny collaborated with the author and director to make the scenery contribute so significantly to the production that the scenery became a character in the play. Theatre impresario Cameron Mackintosh wrote about Kenny's designs for Oliver!: "A lot of the original 1960 production had been written during rehearsal to accompany the working of Sean Kenny's set, as Oliver! has an episodic story that requires quick and varied changes of locale."[6]

Peter Roberts wrote in Plays and Players about Kenny's design for the inaugural production of Hamlet for the National Theatre at The Old Vic theatre in 1963: "The scenic shorthand of Sean Kenny's revolving set has all the vigour and unfussy force of O'Toole's performance in the title role...From a practical point of view it enables the director to deploy his cast three-dimensionally, in height as well as across the stage and enables scene changes to be effected rapidly and practically." December 1963.[7]

For each production Kenny invented what he called a frame, as in framework or scaffold or skeleton. For productions with small budgets the frame would be stationary and for productions with large budgets the frame would be dynamic, moving. In Oliver! the frame consisted of multi-level scaffolding built on a rotating turntable and two rotating side wagons, properly called ring fragments, that followed the curve of the turntable. In Pickwick, the frame was four multi-level scaffolds on wagons that could move in any direction, like four rolling houses. For Blitz! the frame was four multi-level scaffolds on rolling wagons and two towers that rolled up and down stage connected by a bridge that raised and lowered while the towers were moving. In each production this frame provided the different spaces, entrances, levels and playing areas needed by the script and by the action.[8]

"... his influence on British stage design is incalculable. His imagination in the high tech use of modern theatrical technology, paved the way for all the British musical extravaganza which followed."[9]

Projects[edit]

Incomplete list:

Awards[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Inland Waterways News
  2. ^ National Portrait Gallery – Portrait – NPG x88638; The Establishment Club' (John Fortune; John Bird; Unknown man; Hazel Woodvine; Unknown man; Dudley Moore; Peter Cook; Sean Kenny...
  3. ^ Judy Cook, "I was Peter Cook's wife – that's why Dudley Moore wanted me", Daily Mail, 9 August 2008. Accessed 16 December 2012
  4. ^ Stoned, Andrew Loog Oldham, Secker & Warburg, 2000, pp. 314-317
  5. ^ Stoned, Andrew Loog Oldham, Secker & Warburg, 2000, p. 314
  6. ^ "All About Jewish Theatre – Impresario Cameron Mackintosh: How I got Mr Bean to play Fagin" at jewish-theatre.com
  7. ^ Arts and Humanities Data Service (AHDS)
  8. ^ "Sean Kenny (Theatre designer)". Shelf3D.com. Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  9. ^ Clive Barnes review of Oliver!, New York Post, January 8, 1963
  10. ^ a b Cock-a-Doodle Dandy, Royal Court Theatre
  11. ^ Old photos, Mermaid Theatre
  12. ^ Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archive
  13. ^ Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archive
  14. ^ Internet Broadway Data Base
  15. ^ Royal Opera House Collections Online
  16. ^ Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Archive
  17. ^ Technical photographs in the archive collection, Royal National Theatre
  18. ^ Internet Movie Data Base
  19. ^ Royal Opera House Collections Online
  20. ^ Expo 67 – The construction of the Gyrotron
  21. ^ The King of Friday's Men (1973) Abbey Theatre/Amharclann na Mainistreach archives
  22. ^ Gropius' design for Total Theater|Hekman Digital Archive
  23. ^ The American Theatre Wing's Tony Awards
  24. ^ Oliver! profile at IBDb
  25. ^ The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd profile at IBDb

External links[edit]