Versalii Icones

The set design for a composition by the late Orcadian composer Peter Maxwell Davies, Versalii Icones performed by Red Note Ensemble and set within the 12th Century St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney. Written in 1969 this is one of Maxwell’s classic works of concert-hall music theatre. An extraordinarily dramatic, multi-layered fusion of dance and music, its shape superimposes the 14 stations of the Cross on a series of 16th-century anatomical drawings by Vesalius, with a dancer/ choreographer Mathew Hawkins and a solo cellist as the protagonists.

The set, made from a simple softwood timber, Siberian larch ply and ash plugs is fluid and transparent to fit the in the round performance and contrast with the mass of the Cathedral enclosure. Matthew working with and on the set, as are the music ensemble, the set embodies the connection between dancer and musicians, where Maxwell’s score includes the dancer as the seventh performer on the tableature. With a nod to the Orkney chair, the set is part furniture and part interactive framework for the composition. Placed at floor level, four images within floor stands loosely imagine the Edinburgh skyline, designed in collaboration with local illustrator Micheal Kirkham and referencing the original drawings of Christ set in Flanders by Versalius.

Location: Kirkwall, Orkney

Client: Matthew Hawkins Dance

Role: Set Design