Set Design:

Pui Lee: Designer for Set/Props/Costume for From Shore to Shore (2019), directed by David Tse.

My photo of the play in action The FStS cast in costume A scene from the play

I was very excited to work on this play written by Mary Cooper because as a British-born Chinese person who grew up listening to all the stories from my grandparents, I felt a great connection to the themes and purpose of FStS, which is to preserve amd share stories from older generations. :) It is from them that I learnt the drive to succeed and the rewards of working hard. I am pleased to say that I fulfilled my ambition to be the first female Hakka Chinese Set Designer in the country (as far as I'm aware!) as theatre is a big interest of mine! For this commissioned project by On the Wire Productions, I worked as Set Designer, Props & Costume as well as Photographer for some associated events and performances. With thanks to the Arts Council England's DYCP grant, I was also able to learn so much during that time, which not only enabled me to do the best job that I could for this commission but also to develop my own creative practice in new and exciting ways! This was my first time working in the theatre industry and positively, it resulted in exciting additions to my artistic portfolio, including great reviews and even a name mention in The British Theatre Guide! Woop Woop! :)

Rating of 4~STAR by The Guardian newspaper: "rich, dreamlike play feeds body and soul"; "the impressionistic quality of a dream"

Rating of 3~STAR by The Stage newspaper: "clever visual touches"

British Theatre Guide: "Pui Lee’s design: economic but effective, as befits a travelling show that appears everywhere"

With thanks to Arts Council England

~~~Pui's Blog: My Theatre Adventures~~~ (in chronological order)

(12/07/2018): ...Exciting times! I look forward to meeting all team at Northern Stage, Newcastle, next season. Thank you to Colin Holman (Company Manager) for giving me a tour around the place today! I will also be attending the design meetings for upcoming productions, Under Milk Wood, to see what goes on as I'm very new to all of this! But I am very happy to have been invited to do the set design for the UK national strategic touring production, From Shore to Shore, - a powerful new drama with great good and live music! It will be my first time ever doing anything like this and it definitely will be a bucket list dream ticked off!

(11/09/2018): Fab - I got to attend the whitecard design meeting today for Under Milk Wood at Northern Stage and got the opportunity to chat to Director Elayce Ismail (RTYDS director) briefly. It was good to hear her talk about her vision for the show, which originally started off as a radio play. It's not a story I'm familiar with myself but it will be interesting to see how it gets translated into a visual performance. It sounds like a complex set with lots of different elements to it but the visual element of it will be impressive and immersive for sure!

(12/09/2018): Saw the final design meeting today for A Christmas Carol at Northern Stage. It was really useful to watch and see how the director, Mark Calvert, and designer, Rhys Jarman, talk about bringing the story to life on stage! I'm sure it will be another successful show at Northern Stage!

(21/09/2018: Went to the final design meeting today for Under Milk Wood at Northern Stage.

(25/09/2018): It's all go, go, go! It was great to meet Mark Calvert (Associate Director at Northern Stage) today and interview him about the role of a director and things that he has worked on! Learnt lots from him and I got to find out more about more about how designers work with directors! This is all new territory for me but an exciting one!

(AMAZING NEWS!!!): (11/10/2018): ...So, it's official!!! I found out today that I was one of the 111 out of 965 people selected to receive a DYCP grant from Arts Council England in order to develop my creative practice! I will be using this amazing opportunity to grow my professional practice by undertaking lots of research and thus, extending my artistic practice further into theatre design! Lots of exciting experiences and discoveries lay ahead! ...Can't wait! I better get organising!

(31/10/2018): ...I look forward to attending the rehearsals of A Christmas Carol at Northern Stage, Newcastle! It will be really interesting to see the process from first readings to rehearsals to dressed rehearsals right through to tech week and opening night!

(01/11/2018): Wow! It was so lovely to meet the cast yesterday and to interview them about their experiences and careers to date! -What a treat!

(05&06/11/2018): Completed a 2-Day Lighting Designer Course with internationally renown Lighting Designer, Jackie Shemesh, at Dance Xchange, Birmingham. Wow! I particularly loved this experience and found it very intellectually stimulating because the course featured both conceptual, theoretical and practical creative challenges too! Jackie gave me lots of positive feedback during the course so that was great!

(08/11/2018): Took part in a 3hr Theatre Criticism Workshop with award-winning critic Lyn Gardner at Northern Stage! Interesting to learn more about the approaches to writing about theatre and what a critic is looking out for.

(12/11/2018): Completed a Beginners DIY Tool Use at The DIY School in Stockport! Thank you to Simon and the guys for a wonderful time! It was so exciting entering their workshop and seeing all the hub of making acitivity go on with everyone working on their different courses! Certainly, it was great to learn valuable practical carpentry skills from the experts themselves, which can inform what I may need to work on in future.

(25/11/2018): Had so much fun assisting Scenic Artist, Ken Williams, today on the set of "Christmas Carol"! I worked an 8hr shift and this practical work experience opportunity was brilliant! I learnt lots of interesting artistic skills and visual effects relevant to theatre. I was taught how to spray-paint the props in the show such as the trolleys, how to transform black plastic chains into metallic-looking ones, how to age and dirty-up lampshades and other parts of set, helped to paint the set blue abstract patterns and also laquering the stage floor. I quite enjoyed the spray-painting which was a new experience to me!

(December 2019): ...Wow - what a fantastic show! I loved watching "Christmas Carol" - directed by Mark Calvert! It's a very cool show (and not just because it's very blue) with fantastic live music and I really enjoyed watching it! Thank you so much to Northern Stage for the time spent with me this season - it was amazing to observe the show develop from the design meetings to set building. to meeting the cast, first-readings and rehearsals including tech & dress ones, to the show opening for public viewing! I loved meeting everyone who worked in the different production and technical departments to find out more about what they do. It's evident that theatre is a big team effort so well done to all!

(February 2019): ...It's going to be a very busy time ahead as the rehearsal period for From Shore to Shore is rapidly approaching! I look forward to meeting the cast and working on site! It's going to be fab!

(18/02/2019): ...So today, I travelled down to Manchester and delivered a presentation at the final Modelbox Design Meeting in front of the FStS team! I'm really pleased that my ideas were really well received and the cast were excited about what's in store! This is my first ever modelbox made (scale 1:25) and features the Yan Sing restaurant as one of the main site-specific locations for the play. I also presented my Costume Designs for the different characters and decisions regarding additional props. Colour symbolism is a key concept throughout the play reinspired the symbolism which has particular meaning within Chinese culture. I also proposed the idea of a birdcage structure, which redefines the performance space and provides exciting interactive possibilities for the cast. Red wool also would be a main visual feature that is used throughout the story.

Pui Lee presents at Design Meeting with Modelbox in front of Entire Production Team The cast look at the costume designs and have a play!Costume Designs to Play Around With 3D sketch by Artist Pui Lee

(March 2019): ...So, there have been some unexpected challenges along the way and many big compromises made regarding the set design. However, I am thankful that the director is still keen for us to maintain the core ideas of my set design! I am keen to blur the boundaries between art, installation and theatre between my practice at this moment in time so FStS has allowed me to do that.

(March 2019): ...Press nights on Tues 12th and Thurs 14th March at Yan Sing Restaurant, Manchester! Can't wait! ...And due to popular demand, I hear that extra tickets are being released for certain performances! Hooray!

(April 2019): ...Wow! What a whirlwind of a few months but the From Shore to Shore theatre commission project has now finished! With the site-specific and touring nature of the production, there were unexpected circumstances and challenges along the way but I am pleased that the show still delivered a fine and thought-provoking experience for its audience with an array of top reviews! Well done and goodbye to the team! ...Meanwhile, I look forward to continuing my theatre research further!

(April 2019): So, this for theatre Set Design commission for FStS, I proposed the appearance of red wool gradually throughout the story as a visual metaphor for blood-lines and the connected-ness we all share as human beings. During key moments in the plot, these were placed onto birdcage-like bars by the actors, which surrounded the acting space, and created a very visual but not intrusive backdrop to the stories told.

(30/09/2019-02/10/2019): Completed my CAD training: 16hrs Sketchup Basic to Advanced Level at Real Animation Works, London, and was rated as "Excellent" in a tutor-observed practice-based test on-site. Hooray! Certainly, as someone who favours the traditional hand-made non-digital approach to drawing in my own practice, I was able to experience firsthand how competency in a software like this can be useful for conveying ideas visually! My learning on this course was also tailored to Set Design-specific briefs which was really relevant and helpful. The tutor commmented that my high level in drawing skills was really useful. :)

(18-22/11/2019): Completed a week's intensive Masterclass Props-Making with Props-Master Harry Franchetti! (-yes, THE Harry Franchetti himself!) at Pinewood Studios (yes, -THE Pinewood Studios!), Buckinghamshire. Learnt so much! What an absolute highlight! I even got to stay at a convent during this trip too! Harry taught us how to create hand-crafted props for film, theatre and animation. I was able to up-date and refine 3D making skills using clay, plaster, wire etc as well as to work with new and unfamiliar materials like resin! I ended up making a dragon-topped door-knocker, which could also form the top of a walking stick too when separated from its parts. I was so happy that Harry liked my design ideas and I learnt so much from him! I also got to see examples of work from his career like props from the film, "Dark Crystal", and even got to hold an Laurence Olivier Award too! He was a fantastic mentor and gave me some great advice for living a great artist life! :)

(01/12/2019): Wow! It's been a phenomenal time indeed and I have stacks of notes, drawings and photos from the experience to reflect on! I've definitely learnt so much and feel blessed to have also met and learnt from so many interesting professionals along the way! I definitely feel inspired by it all and look forward to applying these experiences to my own work and am definitely open to other creative theatre opportunities in future! Thank you Arts Council England for this amazing R&D time! I look forward to what the future may hold. -The world is my oyster! :)

(7th March 2020): Awesome! So, I recently got selected for a commission where I get to research about the history and heritage of London Chinatown! As part of this artist residency, I also get the opportunity to collect the stories from the people themselves who make up its community. As part of this information gathering period, I was able to apply my installation-style experiential designs to my participatory activities for China Exchange's Thematic Workshop Day event and created the China Express... In - a participatory cafe installation where visitors were invited to explore the thought-provoking (Idea) "Starters" as part of my "Sweet 'n' Sour Special Saturday". These "dishes" represented different themes. It was greta to see people hungry with ideas as participants were able to pick out their own "ingredients" (emotive stimulus words) with chopsticks and respond to these by drawing on their paper plates. Facilitated by me, the sharing activity took place throughout, and there were plenty of meaningful conversations, laughter and interesting debates that came up. I love creating meaningful experiences! :) These ideas will then inform woodcut designs, which will feature on London Chinatown souvenirs to be launched later this year. [UPDATE: This project has been amended slightly because of the unforeseeable pandemic situation. Instead, I will now work on the project remotely and bring together these ideas into a big woodcut design myself for the London Chinatown souvenirs at a later date.]

(July 2020): Great to apply some of the skills learn during this period to my own artistic briefs in my participatory work - especially the modelmaking and scenic art! e.g. I was commissioned to create instructional worksheets to create a world war trench inside a shoe-box this summer! I really enjoyed experimenting with different materials and see what the possibilities could be, when making my prototype! I also made a teaser video too. Please see: (you might have to scroll down to find it)

(13/07/2020) + (20/07/2020) + (27/07/2020): Really enjoyed e-attending these three afternoon webinars: "An Introduction to Audio Drama and Voice-Over Recording Techniques", "Introduction to Basic Sound Editing for Audio Drama and Voiceover" and "The future of audio-drama - an introduction to binaural and ambisonic storytelling" with Sound Designer Matthew Tuckey, who I met at Northern Stage during A Christmas Carol! Learnt a lot about Sound and the creative possibilities of it to enhance audience engagement! Definitely inspired!