Suffolk sculptor’s mighty bull breathes its last on London stage

Stephen Hicklin's bull sculpture takes centre stage in Carmen Disruption at the Almeida Theatre. Pho

Stephen Hicklin's bull sculpture takes centre stage in Carmen Disruption at the Almeida Theatre. Photo by Marc Brenner. - Credit: Marc Brenner

A Suffolk sculptor’s latest breathtaking creation has taken centre stage in a theatrical retelling of Bizet’s opera Carmen.

Stephen Hicklin with one of his latest sculptures

Stephen Hicklin with one of his latest sculptures - Credit: Archant

The deceptively lifelike figure of a prostrate bull began as a polystyrene carving in Stephen Hicklin’s Saxmundham studio before being “brought to life” for the Almeida Theatre stage in Islington.

It took two weeks to shape the enormous beast, which meets its blood-soaked doom in each performance of Simon Stephens’ Carmen Disruption.

London’s Russell Beck Studio added a touch of graphic realism by covering the bull in fur and enabling to “breath” through an animatronic mechanism. As it slowly succumbs in front of the audience, the bull even bleeds from its mouth.

The creative process was progressively contemplative for Mr Hicklin, who designed a scale model before carving the life-sized finished piece.


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He said: “My job was to make it appear as realistic as possible, but also to give it the gravitas of a bull falling to the ground.

“The further I got into it, the more I was reminded how gory bullfighting is. It felt unusual to get an offer to depict something I morally disagree with.

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“The key was to get it right without it appearing too pantomime-like. It would have to appear to have some rib cage movement. I started to deconstruct and understand the internal workings through the feedback I got from the Russell Beck Studio.”

Mr Hicklin said he hoped to see his creation on stage during the play’s run, which continues at the Almeida Theatre until May 23.

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