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  • Writer's pictureleodoulton

Stonehenge as Stage Design

A while ago, I passed Stonehenge in a car. It remains striking.

Here are some thoughts on it as a piece of stage design, given that most other angles have been covered (and probably this one, given the amount of times it has been drawn on for sets).

Logic and Insanity

The form of Stonehenge is obviously ordered and logical. It is very difficult to look at it and believe it to be anything other than a deliberate creation; a made thing.

A human-made thing (in general; I am aware some people contest this).

Yet we do not know why. After thousands of years, we have lost the reason that several people would make so much effort for such a thing.

And thus it has an element of irrationality; of insanity. It offers no tangible benefit, no obvious reward. Yet it evidently was considered worth making a lot of effort for.

“The people who made this thought it was worth making a lot of effort for” is one of the very few certain things we can say about their thoughts constructing Stonehenge.

But in the absence of a reason that we know, it leaves us wondering why.

Design that binds the sky

On approaching Stonehenge, it appears above us. The megaliths frame the sky, in the same way that two trees leaning together might. A small piece of the sky is separated and made special.

We see the sky through Stonehenge (and here we might delve into its architecture framing various important solar events throughout the year).

Something human and incomprehensible takes something natural and vast, placing it in a frame.

Which ties into the other aspect of approaching Stonehenge.

Concealed design

Stonehenge is on a high hill. But not so high that it can be seen for miles around.

Instead, we glimpse it as we get near the great monument (nowadays, aided by helpful signs).

There are other hills between where the stones come from, and the place they now stand, that might have allowed everyone to see it from far away.

Instead, we see it, then do not see it, then see it again in a different aspect.

If I had any sense of how its makers thought, I might say something.

Nowadays, however, that’s definitely a technique for building anticipation. It’s an ancient monument functioning in the same blink-and-you’ll miss it way of signs saying ‘Five miles to LEGOLAND’!

Notes for designers

There is a power in obvious logic deployed for unknown reasons.

There is a power in binding the sky.

And there is power in glimpses of what is to come, only for it to be transformed the next time we see it.

But none of this is a surprise.

Unsurprisingly, since the above relates to something very old.


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