Set Construction

We’re all familiar with the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk, but how do you actually build a 7m tall beanstalk that looks realistic on stage? We speak to PAUL TAYLOR to find out.

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Almost every Saturday from August until December you will find Paul Taylor toiling away in studio three at the Dance Education Centre.

This dedicated craftsman has volunteered to construct the sets for DEC shows for the past 17 years and has continued his efforts long after his own daughter, Courtney, left the dance school and launched her professional career.

“She started at DEC when she was four years-old,” Paul recalls. “She’s 27 now and dances with the Victorian State Ballet Company. My son, James, does the sound at Baycourt for DEC shows each year. Our whole family is just into doing this sort of thing.”

Paul says he’s always been handy with tools – he currently builds race cars for a living at Heads Racing in Mount Maunganui and has previously installed doors and windows on super yachts around the world.

“I do have a very good imagination,” he admits. “All of the DEC sets and props are hand-built and they’re all out of my head. Each year Prue will say ‘I want to do this’ and I’ll sit there and think about how to make her vision happen.”

Everything Paul builds in studio three must then be disassembled and transported to Baycourt for the actual show performances. “I use a lot of timber and MDF, and plenty of bolts and hinges which can all pull apart. We use everything we can think of. With this year’s show, I’m building a huge beanstalk. I just instantly thought of using green pool noodles to give it some girth.”

The top 6m of beanstalk will ‘fly’ down from the ceiling to join onto the base, and Paul has to regularly undertake fly training at Baycourt to ensure everything goes smoothly. Come show time, he’ll be side stage taking instructions from Prue through an earpiece to ensure various screens and items of scenery are lowered and raised at the correct time.

“It can be stressful on the night but the thing I really enjoy is seeing the girls go on stage with a big smile on their faces and seeing them and their performance grow each year. It’s quite a buzz.”

In addition to this year’s impressive beanstalk, Paul also has to build a thatched house that will transform into a tavern, a barn, a stone wall, a scarecrow stand, trees and a big floral backdrop, a brazier with a fire, a vegetable barrow, a signpost and a big giant’s table, amongst other things. The list goes on!

“I enjoy it. I love Stu and Prue, they’re great people. We have a great laugh together and it’s very satisfying to see everything come together on stage at the end.”

This year’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk will be staged at Baycourt on Friday December 13th and Saturday 14th. To purchase tickets, visit the DEC shop or Baycourt’s ticket office.