Break Down the Sets: The Kitchen
Launch Image ViewerEstelle Daniel, on populating the kitchen:
The Gormenghast people are a race. They're a race of their own and they're not British and neither are they American, they're Gormenghast. So we attempted, through the resources that we had, to create a race that you would think of as other, not as our own... We wanted the different sectors of the castle population to have a similarity, but to look as though they belonged to the race of Gormenghast. We worked instinctively but, as we decided on wigs and different aspects of the makeup, we created an overall look for a people that you wouldn't find on the streets of London -- or anywhere else for that matter.

It's has to do with Mervyn Peake being a painter... the visuals of the piece had to have a kind of painterly integrity to them -- when you read the descriptions in the book, these kitcheners are incredibly vivid. There are almost different races in the kitchen -- you know, the gray scrubbers and the poissoniers and the sauciers. We wanted each group to be distinguished by its physical characteristics... for example, the butchers had to be big and brawny.

Estelle Daniel, on dressing the set:
For the kitchen scenes... we tried at first to use rubber meat, but it did not look right, so we sent out for a trailer load of genuine carcasses. We ended up with cows and sheep hanging from the ceiling, and game birds on the kitchen slabs, with real blood and blobs of meat among a slew of cabbage leaves and potato peelings on the floor. After a few hours under the lights it certainly smelt authentic!

Christopher Hobbs on the kitchen set:
I wanted that feeling that if you kick it, you stub your toe. You can smell the kitchen.

The kitchen was quite difficult because it was actually much smaller than I really wanted. We were basically squashed in and had to maneuver the blocks around a bit to get everything in. We couldn't quite get far enough back to see it that great cavernous face.

You can see it, but it's only sort of glimpsed, I think. But it still works. And like a lot of the sets, the real detail was in the people. So you see a lot of smoke, and we did have that rather nasty rotting meat which looked great.

Richard Griffiths, actor, on Swelter and the kitchen:
Swelter was a monstrous figure -- a monster like Idi Amin, who on the one hand was laughably comic and worthy of any derisory thing you could imagine, and on the other hand if you were in his hands and under his control, you could die any second. That is the conundrum, because you are laughing and you are invited to laugh. But please don't forget that this is Idi Amin, and if that cleaver connects, I am sorry, you will die... Swelter has an empire over which he has absolute control. Nobody is going to go down there. Flay is his exact opposite on the other side of the stairwell but Flay is with the Earl.

In Peake's words:
. . . Everything was confusion, but behind the flux of the shifting figures and the temporary chaos of overturned mixing tables, of the floor littered with stock pots, basting pans, broken bowls and dishes, and oddments of food, Mr. Flay could see the main fixtures in the room and keep them in his mind as a means of reference, for the kitchen swam before his eyes in a clammy mist. Divided by the heavy stone wall in which was situated a hatch of strong timber,, was the garde-manger with its stacks of cold meat and hanging carcases and on the inside of the wall the spit. On a fixed table running along a length of the wall were huge bowls capable of holding fifty portions. The stock-pots were perpetually simmering, having boiled over, and the floor about them was a mess of sepia fluid and egg-shells that had been floating in the pots for the purpose of clearing the soup. The sawdust that was spread neatly over the floor each morning was by now kicked into heaps and soaked in the splashings of wine. And where scattered about the floor little blobs of fat had been rolled or trodden in , the sawdust stuck to them giving them the appearance of rissoles. Hanging along the dripping walls were rows of sticking knives and steels, boning knives, skinning knives and two-handed cleavers. And beneath them a twelve-foot by nine-foot chopping clock, cross-hatched and hollowed by decades of long wounds.

On the other side of the room, to Mr. Flay's left, a capacious enormous copper, a row of ovens and a narrow doorway acted as his landmarks. The doors of the ovens were flying wide and acid flames were leaping dangerously, as the fat that had been thrown into the fires bubbled and stank.

-- Titus Groan, "The Great Kitchen"

For more about the kitchen, visit:
The Producer's Diary/March 31

 Set Design:
Kitchen | Fuchsia's Attic | Stone Corridors | Library | Graveyard

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