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Set model

Set model

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1985 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gunter, John, born 1938 - died 2016 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Paper, card, ink, wood, fabric, glue, plastic and metal

  • Credit Line:

    Given by John Gunter

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

John Gunter (1938-2016) trained at Central School of Art and Design under Ralph Koltai before working at the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch and the Bristol Old Vic. In 1965 he became resident designer at the Royal Court where his style ranged from the stark minimalism of Edward Bond’s Saved to social realism in Peter Gill’s landmark revivals of D H Lawrence’s coal-mining plays.

John Gunter's international career began in 1970 with a residency at Zurich’s Schauspielhaus. He returned to head up the Theatre Design Department at Central School in the 1970s, meanwhile making his mark at the Royal Court, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Nottingham Playhouse. His collaboration with director Richard Eyre at Nottingham led to a remarkable run of hits at the Royal National Theatre in the 1980s, starting with setting and costumes for The Beggar’s Opera in the Cottesloe and the sensational neon-lit Guys and Dolls in the Olivier. Gunter mastered the latter theatre for The Rivals directed by Peter Wood, with ingenious moveable houses mounted on trucks, and panoramic vistas of Bath. In Gogol’s The Government Inspector, audiences adored the surreal setting: its sea of bureaucratic paperwork and huge portrait of the Tsar stole the show every night.

Other major directors John Gunter worked with included Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn, most notably the latter’s Porgy and Bess at Glyndebourne in 1986, and Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2004 with Ben Whishaw in the title role. He won Best Designer award from SWET for Guys and Dolls(1982), and an Olivier for Best Designer with Wild Honey (1984).

On moving house in 2008 he kindly donated to the Museum six set models including this one - all of which he made himself. To mark the occasion he was interviewed by Geoffrey Marsh, Director of the V&A Theatre & Performance Department, in his studio before it was dismantled by the removers. A copy of the interview is viewable in the Theatre & Performance Department's archive.

Physical description

This set model shows the acting area surrounded on three sides and partly covered by bundles of written and typed papers which threaten to overwhelm the set. The papers have been painted in a wash of dusty grey and attached are eight pieces of cotton thread. These threads represent how scenery was moved during performance, for example the portrait of the Tsar loomed ever large as it travelled towards the audience. On either side Christmas trees of different sizes have been made out of bottle brushes. At the centre of the raked stage are two trucks representing a room with bare floorboards and paintings on the wall. Two doorways lead out to the street, and three giant black bottles inhabit the space.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1985 (made)


Gunter, John, born 1938 - died 2016 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Paper, card, ink, wood, fabric, glue, plastic and metal


Height: 27.7 cm, Width: 49 cm, Depth: 36.5 cm

Descriptive line

Set model by John Gunter for The Government Inspector by Gogol, Royal National Theatre, Olivier, 1985

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

John Goodwin, British Theatre Design: the Modern Age. Caption and picture, p. 72


Entertainment & Leisure; Theatre


Theatre and Performance Collection

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