Dream of Autumn – Narelle Sissons


Scenic and costume design by Narelle Sissons

Dream of Autumn by Jon Fosse was produced by Quantum Theatre in the former ‘Park Shenley Restaurant’ and apartment building storage space, in the spring of 2013.

In her article about the production scholar Wendy Arons describes the story ‘Dream of Autumn is not a work that seeks to communicate a story, at least not a linear one; rather, it seems to want to impart an experience of how time works — that is, of how past and present and even future are all a part of every moment of each of our lives, of how our own future deaths, and the past or future deaths of those we love, are, in imperceptible ways, tied into our present now’.

The shared space – the large raw space was chosen by the designers and director specifically for this production. The enormous indoor basement space supported Fosse’s themes i.e. the graveyard full of stored memories, distance, unknown, dreams and baggage from one’s past. In addition the surreal quality of being indoors, while representing outdoors, helped shift this story off balance and into a dreamscape. The design consisted of pieces of furniture buried into the concrete. The furniture ‘graveyard’ was activated to revealed characters, entering through closets. A bookcase with books that revealed the names of the dead and a gramophone player, played the music of a former musician, also buried in our imaginations.

The weather – was a key player in the design and in the themes of Fosse’s story. We created rain that poured down on the character of the ‘ex-wife’, wherever she was in the room – she was being rained on. This was developed in rehearsal, as our response to her dismal relationship to the character of Man. Wind also was present in our design – ripped pieces of silk randomly floating out from behind columns when the dreams became more present, this was subtly presented and gave the space a more heightened quality and the weather a visual presence.

The politics – family dynamics is a constant theme throughout Fosse’s play. I played with time period in the costumes to enhance the ideas of family memories. Each character was seen from the Man’s point of view i.e. the parents were clothed as if on their way to a party in the 1960’s, the ex-wife was clothed as if during the stormy breakup at the end of the 1970’s and the ghost character (the current lover) dressed in a silk slip as if to transcend time. The man appeared as the ‘everyman’ wearing contemporary clothing in the midst of this complex group of memories.