Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance is the story of the whirlwind pursuit of romance thrown together with the struggles of tradition versus modernity. So, it comes as no surprise that art director, Snezana Pesic, decided to use the Art Nouveau style for Odyssey Theatre’s production of Marivaux’s classic play. Before we get into the details of how this style is used in The Game of Love and Chance, it is important that we first delve into the history of the art movement itself.
Originating in Western and Central Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Art Nouveau is an artistic and design movement that emphasized elegance, opulence, and lavishness by using free-flowing lines and asymmetry. At the same time, buildings, advertisements, or paintings that were part of the Art Nouveau wave had modern characteristics through the use of geometrical shapes and angular contours.Art Nouveau was influenced by two distinct movements from different parts of the world. The first was the Arts and Crafts movement in the 1880s steered by English designer William Morris. Like Art Nouveau, before it, the movement emphasized the need for elite craftsmanship as well as detailed ornamentation. The second movement was the Vogue artistry coming from Japan which involved the use of accentuated curved lines and wood-block paintings. Distinctive features of the movement included wandering, meandering lines so curvaceous and accentuated in their curves that they looked like the results of a whiplash. Other important aspects to Art Nouveau were floral patterns and the philosophy of everything in daily living – architecture, furniture, clothing, and jewelry – should not only have functional services but aesthetic as well.
When planning the art design for The Game of Love and Chance, director Andy Massingham and Pesic, at first, had divergent visions of where to take the aesthetics. See video for insiders look into process.
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Pesic meticulously crafted the set design to reflect the play’s overall sentiment of confusion and vagueness by playing with the outdoor setting of Strathcona Park. According to Pesic, “the set needs to be ambiguous and use outdoor and indoor space at the same time.”
Moreover, by incorporating the outdoor venue, the overall expansiveness and lightness are more pronounced by the large transparent surfaces Pesic designed. Despite the natural setting, Pesic decided to use as much artifice as possible.“I’m thinking that it will be artificial material but hopefully the material that looks pretty natural,” Pesic said.Although Pesic’s set designs show an impressive amount of variety and versatility, each of the features all communicate the sensibilities of Art Nouveau. Like Massingham’s rendition of Marivaux’s The Game of Love and Chance,Art Nouveau represents the harmony between different historical and classical eras to produce a stunning work of art. “In a way, it was like the transition between history and modern[ity] of the time,” Pesic said. “Even now, you can see that it’s one of the most popular art movements ever.”