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The Royal New Zealand Ballet's enchanted mapmaker

Sep 1, 2015 Theatre

This story first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Metro. Photo: Grant Maiden.

People – Tracy Grant Lord, Royal New Zealand Ballet’s set and costumer designer.

When Puck flits high across the Aotea Centre stage this month, it’ll be on a bridge of vines suspended in moonlight direct from Tracy Grant Lord’s imagination.

The Auckland designer is the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s go-to creative force for grand, enchanting worlds, and for RNZB’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream she’s working with star choreographer Liam Scarlett, the 29-year-old artist in residence at the Royal Ballet in London. “He’s concise. It’s amazing in one so young to know exactly what they want,” says Grant Lord. “He wanted an incredibly magical world. He wanted it to be about fairies.”

The thrill of creating a whole world is what Grant Lord loves about the job — and what’s prevented her from working in film, where there’s not the same degree of control. She has had what she calls a unique career, starting with an apprenticeship at Mercury Theatre in the 80s and leading now to freelance work for theatre, opera and dance here and in Australia — where she dressed Geoffrey Rush as Lady Bracknell for Melbourne Theatre Company’s The Importance of Being Earnest. “Geoffrey was completely obsessed about how real he wanted to look as a woman and we had a really good time getting him there.”

Grant Lord’s other work this year includes Salute, for RNZB, Auckland Theatre Company’s upcoming musical Guys and Dolls and an opera in its early stages. In December, the Scottish Ballet is reviving Cinderella, which Grant Lord made for RNZB in 2007. Odds on, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will also be in demand by companies abroad. Grant Lord is building the set to last 20 years.

“It’s one of the most magical stories of our English-speaking canon. Liam would have to be one of the hottest choreographers in the world at the moment,” she says. “You want to be able to not push the boat out, but fill those sails with air and let it go on its own journey. There’s a whole
massive crew of people trying to do that. I’m the lucky one because I get to map the route.”

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs September 2-6 at Aotea Centre.


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