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Illusion of the best kind

Feb 27, 2017

Set designer Saul Radomsky’s stellar career ranging from the West End to Broadway and theatres across the globe eventually brought him home to South Africa to fulfil a long-held dream of living in Cape Town. Here he planted roots as set designer at the Fugard Theatre working on diverse productions from David Kramer musicals to small-cast family dramas, and is now preparing for Funny Girl which opens in April.

As a youngster in Johannesburg, Radomsky went to the theatre from a young age often to see his mother’s cousin, Taubie Kushlick, a “big star” at the time. “I was very fascinated by what I saw on stage, but not the acting side, I just loved the illusion of what was on the stage. When I got older and more bold I would ask the stage manager if I could walk onto the stage – I wanted to touch it and feel it.”

He describes seeing the work of the South African designer-painter Pamela Lewis on a set covered in a beautiful silk damask. “I went up to it, and it was painted canvas and I thought this is amazing – this is illusion of the best kind.” As there were no design courses in South Africa back then, Radomsky studied fine art and left for the United Kingdom for further studies.

The Fugard occupies a unique niche in Cape Town’s theatre landscape offering excellent productions, affordable prices and a unique historic setting. The intimate scale of the theatre while great for audiences brings its own challenges. “It’s difficult, you are so restricted because of the size of this listed building and the confines of the stage. There is no wing space … but in a way it’s very good – I am forced to stretch myself. I moan about the place, but it’s fantastic and I have to be innovative.”

Audiences have been the beneficiaries, with Radomsky’s outstanding sets transporting the viewer right into the story. As he says, “it’s about the magic that’s created.”

When asked if there’s a Radomsky ‘signature’ that distinguishes his work across the diversity of his set designs he talks about his excessive attention to detail and the need for “research, research, research” to achieve authenticity. Great set design is “more than just being artistic, what is there must be recognisable to the audience” and must feel right to the cast. And it’s not all about money he says, “but the art of selection”. 

Last modified on Monday, 27 February 2017 08:58
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CityLife is the newspaper for people who live, work and play in the Cape Town central city area – and our many visitors. It’s a blend of news and information about people and places in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

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