Anna Williams is a recent graduate from the Theatre & Screen: Theatre Design course at Wimbledon College of Arts. Before she had even finished her final project, Anna had already lined up a role at Lollipop, an immersive hospitality company where she has been working for the past year. The latest, and most demanding, project is called The Grid, a dystopian immersive theatre experience involving actors, an escape room and a bar. We met up with Anna to find out more about the world of immersive theatre!
You studied Theatre & Screen: Theatre Design at Wimbledon, how did you get involved with Lollipop?
During my degree I was working as much as possible in set and costume design- I had moved from a small Berkshire village into a massive city, and wanted to get as much experience as possible, as fast as possible. So I worked as an assistant on theatre shows, TV and film sets and events, and realised that I didn’t necessarily want to limit myself to theatre only. When it came to graduating I had built up a successful practice of my own, designing my own shows and sets for various things, including music videos and photoshoots, but I wanted something more secure straight out of Uni. I had developed an interest in immersive theatre, culminating in a design for an immersive theatre piece as my degree show project. As part of my research for it, I found Lollipop online and wrote in, hoping they would see my CV and work, and let me come on board as a designer, and they did! I have now been working there for a year and have learnt an incredible amount- it’s been the best!
Lollipop’s latest project ‘The Grid’ is a dystopian immersive theatre experience; how did this idea come about?
Usually, Lollipop’s projects are 20% escape room, 80% bar, but in the last year they have decided to flip the percentage with this new project. We were looking into possible themes and stories to pursue as part of this, and had lots of different ideas floating around (all secrets of course!). We knew we wanted to keep the bar element, as it has always been a strong point of the company, and settled on something dystopian as we felt it really fit in with the zeitgeist. We are living in a new age, where technology is part of our everyday lives, and we wanted to question whether that is a good thing or not.
What have been the biggest challenges/ successes with this project?
For me, filtering the experience down so it’s not really a theatre piece with trained actors etc., but more “open world” was a challenge, as I have always had that security before. I really enjoyed being part of the process from start to finish- a lot of the time designers are brought on quite late and have to play catch up, so I think the fact that the team all worked together from day 1 was the biggest success.
Have the relationships you made at UAL helped you at all since graduating?
Massively- Wimbledon was always very keen on harnessing relationships across all three years and this continues after you leave – we actually have really active Facebook groups still in place where people share potential work and placements. It’s very supportive.
As well as Lollipop, you also work as a freelancer, how do you balance your time?
Honestly, I’m constantly running around. Lollipop is my main priority, but I like to keep myself open to other design projects – I’m currently working on The Crucible which opens at the Royal and Derngate in July, so my weekends are filled with design meetings over Skype or in person.
What has been your greatest achievement?
Keeping my momentum going- it was challenging to get the ball rolling at first- being a set designer depends a lot on who you know, but you have to start somewhere!
What is next for you?
I want to keep learning about my practice – hopefully with Lollipop for the foreseeable future, and to keep my own independent projects on the go too – I’m really happy with where I am at the moment!
The Grid is taking place at an undisclosed location in central London in summer 2018. Ticket price will include two cocktails. You can sign up to the waiting list at thegrid.london.