John Napier’s designs for stage

Equus design by John Napier
Equus design by John Napier

Multi award-winning set and costume designer John Napier brings theatre and art together in a new exhibition at the Towner Art Gallery from November 29 until the end of January 2016.

Stages: Beyond the Fourth Wall is his first major exhibition and explores Napier’s innovation and distinctive style which is responsible for some of the most iconic designs in theatre; the horses in Equus, the barricades in Les Misérables, the helicopter in Miss Saigon, the outsize junkyard in Cats, and Starlight Express.

Napier, who studied fine art at the Hornsey College of Art in the 1960’s, has created sets and costume designs for some of the longest running shows in London’s West End and on Broadway. Napier is an Associate Designer at the Royal Shakespeare Company and notable productions for them have included Macbeth, The Comedy of Errors, King Lear, Peter Pan and Mother Courage. He has worked on multiple productions for the Royal National Theatre such as The Party (Olivier’s last performance at the Old Vic), Equus, Trelawny of the ‘Wells’ and South Pacific. Napier has designed for opera including Royal Opera House, Glyndebourne, and the New York Metropolitan Opera.

He comments: “The pleasure I felt when designing for the stage was mixed with an irresistible desire to make pieces of my own. For most of my life, I have been inextricably linked with the theatre. It has inevitably become an indelible part of my imagination, and subconsciously the key inspiration for many of my other pieces. A number of these were, of course, made decades ago, but part of the collection has only just emerged. All the creations on display have been produced with the same level of invention and energy that led to the origination of some of my most celebrated work. Each item holds a natural individual authority, however, when combined together, they display the specific nature of my passion to devise a gallery show that creates a bridge between art and the stage.”

John Napier’s design awards include four Oliviers from nine nominations, a BAFTA, and five Tony Awards for Nicholas Nickleby, Cats, Starlight Express, Les Misérables, and Sunset Boulevard. Napier is a member of the American Academy of Achievement, was elected Royal Designer for Industry in 1996 and is an Honorary Fellow of the London Institute.