10 Favourite Things: Theatre of dreams

From a vintage cardigan to a K Rd drag queen, set and costume designer Daniel Williams loves kitsch and camp

Performance designer Daniel Williams is designing a show/performance installation called 'The Pitchfork Disney', which shows later this month. Photo / NZH

Auckland's Q Theatre has been transformed into a Gothic fairy tale under the direction of award-winning theatre designer Daniel Williams, for tomorrow night's premiere of Philip Ridley's dark theatre production of The Pitchfork Disney.

Williams has worked with Cut Collective to create an abandoned world reflecting the play's focus: the dream-like childish existence of two young adults and what happens when a nightclub owner and his masked assistant shatter their dreams and force them to face their fears.

The production is Williams' first Auckland-based project, after moving from Wellington. In the past, he has worked on sets for theatre productions such asLittle Dog Laughed and Angels in America, and has been nominated for and won awards including Weta Workshop Set Designer of the Year in 2008.

The fan of all things kitsch and camp tells us about some of his favourites.

• The Pitchfork Disney, Q Theatre, June 20-29, tickets $25-$35 from qtheatre.co.nz


1. My great grandmother's rocking chair

It's a fine piece of classic furniture, simple 1960s design, slender and comfortable. Laden with fond memories of my nana, not to mention rich with retro character, it is a lovely addition to any lounge or interior space and, according to my flatmate, a great chair for playing Xbox!

2. Eagle Cowichan cardigan

I found this gorgeous thing in a second-hand store on Cuba St in Wellington. It's super-warm and has saved me on many occasions from hypothermia down in the capital. I'm not normally a vintage fashion kind of guy but this is one piece I just can't go without.

3. Bona Pizza Cafe, Ponsonby

One of the best restaurants in Auckland. I just have to give a huge shout out to this Italian family-run business. It's the perfect mix of great food, warm hospitality, affordable prices and boasts a relaxed dining atmosphere.

4. Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World

This painting hung in the spare bedroom of my childhood home. As a boy growing up I always wondered what it was all about. Who is she? How did she get there? For a long time I thought it was an artist's interpretation of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I later learned Philip Ridley directed a film called The Reflecting Skinusing this painting to guide his visual style - coincidentally Ridley is also the writer of The Pitchfork Disney.

5. The Dodocase for iPad

There is a great company in San Francisco called Dodocase, which makes interestingly designed cases for tables, smartphones and digital readers. It used to be a leading book-binding company and, on the edge of bankruptcy, it began making iPad cases in the same traditional way as book binding, using recycled materials. They even come with a hand-crafted library card insert.

6. Wallpaper prints by Liberty

I just love using heavy prints. Adding a dense floral wallpaper to a set design adds great texture for lighting and character to a room. Liberty prints, particularly the art nouveau-inspired series, are just stunning. I am using a deep green floral print in my next design, perfect for a middle-class 1980s English bedroom. I hope to have a dining room of my own adorned with such delightful papers one day.

7. The Last Sitting by Bert Stern

A fabulous photographic essay on the wonderful Marilyn Monroe. It captures the innocence and fire of the legendary star in a series of erotic, sensual and emotional pictures. The images have a certain fragility, they are sad and so glamorous at the same time. I really love the graininess of black-and-white film photography; it's just a certain something that digital can't produce.

8. Aroha Lewin's Mrs Tiki print

This print was given to me as a gift for my 24th birthday. I'm a sucker for Kiwiana art, especially when it has a contemporary edge. It's kitsch and camp at the same time - two of the best genres, by the way. This particular print will always remind me of a special time flatting on Blair St in Wellington.

9. The divine Arabia Le' Veil

A great friend and rising star in the Auckland drag landscape, Arabia is a true gift. She is an absolute glamour queen with impeccable style and taste. Her looks are always evolving, they are executed flawlessly and follow current, edgy design trends. It's always a joy mincing up the K Rd strip or busting a fierce move out on the dancefloor with her. Many a good night has been spent hitting it with the divine Arabia Le' Veil: love you sistah!

10. The cast and crew of The Pitchfork Disney

This is simply my favourite project at the moment. [I love] working with such an inspiring group of young artists on a classic piece of richly textured British writing.

We are really going big on this production, and being my first set design for an Auckland audience, it's great to really sink my teeth into something as epic as what we are attempting to pull off. Fingers crossed.

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