“I thought you might like to see your toilets at Glastonbury – they were really popular!”
Kate Whittaker | Media Officer | WaterAid
SOME OF OUR CLIENTS
Walkers Crisps | Nestle | Innocent Muller | Cadburys | Pepsi Co | Specsavers | Tayto Crisps | Water Aid | Wildlife trust | Sainsbury | Simon and Schuster publishers | Science Museum
Imagine Harry Potter without wands, Star Wars without lightsabers and Aladdin without a lamp? These props are crucial for theatre productions and films, and they have an essential role in telling the story.
Performance props are officially known as theatrical property. The prop is a term to describe an object to be used by an actor in a live or pre-recorded performance. A prop is classed as anything portable that can be easily moved off set. They are considered separately to scenery and costumes.
Common everyday items like telephones or crockery can be rented from prop hire companies. Often performances require bespoke props that are made specifically for a production. This is where the role of the prop maker steps in. Prop makers have a wide range of skills to craft objects out of every material possible.
Props have an important role in setting the scene of a performance. Prop makers research the type of item required to match to historical references if required. To withstand the demands of a production, props need to be well made. The last thing an actor needs is a prop falling apart while they perform!
The main types of item a prop maker will create are for stage productions. Other types of props are created for advertising or promotions. Here is a list as an example of the range of items of prop maker will produce:
Weapons / Action Props
Stage shows with fights and battle scenes require props that can be part of the action. For the safety of the actors, the weapons may look real from a distance but will be made from lightweight materials.
If an object needs to break as part of the performance, this would be described as a stunt prop. For example, a vase that needs to break when dropped may not be an actual vase. The prop could be made of a material that breaks obviously in the performance with a sound effect used for the drama. Once broken, the prop would be easy to put back together for the next show.
Imagine a performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with no skull? Props like the skull are heroes of the production and need to be well made. For a long-running theatre show several duplicate hero props will be made as a back up for any damages.
Large props like trees or statues, blur the lines of distinction between scenery and props. If an actor is to interact with a large-scale model like a giant crocodile, this would be a life-size prop. Some props of this scale may have some animation special effects like a smoke breathing dragon head.
Props that are part of the set are normally furniture and tableware. If the furniture is to be used by actors, it will be made in a similar way to standard furniture in a style suitable for the show. Some set props may need to be lightweight for quick and easy movement. They may look like wooden furniture but could be made from polystyrene.
If an actor’s costume has additional accessories linked to their characters’ performance, these are called personal props. Stage shows of Mary Poppins wouldn’t be the same without the famous umbrella.
Props used to advertise and promote products are often used for marketing. Large scale products to catch attention or to show product benefits can have a long-lasting, memorable impact. Retailers and brands often use promotional props for new product launches or seasonal events.