How Vanya’s set design went from stage to NT Live screen

As Vanya, starring Andrew Scott, hits the big screen with NT Live, set designer Rosanna Vize describes retaining the intimacy of London’s Duke of York's show

Actor Andrew Scott amid Vanya set design, at National Theatre, on stage in blue shirt
Actor Andrew Scott on stage in the National Theatre’s Vanya, now released on film through NT Live
(Image credit: Marc Brenner. NTL 2024 Vanya production photography)

Vanya was finding a way of creating a space that held the essence of the person, the singular person on stage, the strange endeavour of doing it,’ says Rosanna Vize, the designer who brought the Chekhov play Uncle Vanya to life on stage in its most recent Duke of York's theatre, London, iteration. ‘You’re bringing a kind of subtle magic within it that you just don't know is going to work. You just have to throw things at the wall and see if they stick.’

Following a five-week run at the Duke of York's, NT Live has now released Vanya at cinemas worldwide, with the one-man show placing actor Andrew Scott at the centre of Vize’s understated, provincial world. Directed by Sam Yates and adapted by Simon Stephens, the show sees Scott portray every character with a raw, often unsettling, empathy.  

Taking Vanya’s set design from stage to film

man on stage in blue shirt

(Image credit: Marc Brenner)

For Vize, the challenge of the set design was in maintaining the intimacy cultivated on stage for the big screen. ‘What was extraordinary about working with NT Live is that they really preserve the very thing that you made in tech and in previews. You expect that there's going to be this huge list of things to change, with things being too bright or overexposed. But scenically, the only huge change was that Andrew has to really keep an eye on not showing his Smirnoff Ice to the camera.’

Lighting, too, was faithfully reproduced for the cameras, with the requirements of the stage translated to the screen, becoming a sharp foil for the muted colour palette of the set. ‘So much of what we were trying to make dramaturgically and tonally was held in colour,’ Vize adds. ‘I think whilst the playful intricacies of the characters should and will develop all the time, [the set] relates back to what Chekhov is always doing, which is creating this real sense of gentle melancholy. You have to hold on to it when you're working with [this] kind of text to stop it becoming saccharin or pointless, I think. A lot of the time, when you translate these sorts of theatre productions to film, everything feels really warm, for example, and you lose all of that very subtle detail, but it doesn’t feel like that here, which is a lovely thing.’ 

NT Live: Vanya is at cinemas worldwide. Find your nearest screening at:

Andrew Scott on stage in Vanya

(Image credit: Marc Brenner)

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.