Cleo Pettitt is a set and costume designer for theatre, working around the world in places as diverse as Alaska and Bermuda, as well as the UK, from her base in London.
Having trained as a teenager in scenic art at the Royal Shakespeare Company and later the Birmingham Rep., Cleo went on to study design, gaining a B.A. (hons) Theatre Design (finalist: Linbury Prize for Stage Design) and M.A. Scenography from U.C.E., Birmingham. Theatre work includes: ‘Grandma Saves the Day’, New Wolsey, Ipswich; ‘Dracula’, Cheltenham Everyman/National tour (costumes only); ‘The Pirates of Penzance’,’The Sound of Music’, Anchorage Opera, Discovery Theatre, Alaska; ‘Missing Persons’, Trafalgar Studios; ‘Boy in a Dress’, Oval Theatre; ‘Art’, Theatre Royal, Bury St. Edmunds; ‘Ladies Cage’, Royal Exchange Studio, Manchester; ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’, Liverpool Playhouse; ‘Facade’, Birmingham Symphony Hall; ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’, ‘Cyclops’, The Scoop, South Bank; ‘Company’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, ‘Toad of Toad Hall’, Palace Theatre, Westcliff; ‘Quest for the Green Knight’, Circus Tent, Clapham Common; ‘Swollen Tongues’, National Tour; ‘Trust Byron’, Gate Theatre and Tour; ‘Macbeth’, ‘The Snow Queen’, Creation Theatre, Oxford; ‘Amadeus’, Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon; ‘Joyisms’, Looking Glass Theatre, Off-Broadway; ‘Hedda Gabler’, RSC Fringe.
Many musicals at City Hall Theatre, Bermuda, include: ‘South Pacific’, ‘The Producers’, ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, ‘Oliver!’, ‘The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’, ‘Into the Woods’, ‘Dreamgirls’, ‘Cabaret’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘The Full Monty’, ‘Ragtime’ and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’.
Productions in Dubai include: ‘Fame’, ‘Blood Brothers, ‘Woman in Black’, ‘Annie’, ‘High School Musical’ (1 & 2), ‘Abigail’s Party’ and ‘The Sound of Music’ (Time Out Award: Best Musical) which transferred to Bahrain’s International Arena.
Opera: ‘The Marriage of Figaro’, Lyric, Hammersmith; ‘Cosi Fan Tutte’, ‘Tosca’, Christs Hospital, Horsham; ‘Simon Boccanegra’, ‘The Merry Widow’, Bloomsbury Theatre; ‘Don Giovanni’, Heaven, Charring Cross.
In Canada, the opening two seasons for the Montgomery Theatre, Prince Edward Island, with works from Wilde to Coward and Shaw.
And finally, the wonderful world of Panto. Cleo has been a regular designer of panto at Watford Palace, Greenwich Theatre and the Elgiva Theatre, Chesham and Christmas musicals for The Brewhouse Theatre, Taunton as well as, on occasion, Chelmsford Theatre, Town Hall Theatre, Hartlepool, costumes at the Belgrade, Coventry and The Players Theatre, Greenwich Village, New York.
Twice nominated for ‘Best Set Designer’ at the Great British Panto Awards, 2016 and 2019.
Although my formal training was in Theatre Design, l was apprenticed as a scenic artist and worked for many years in that genre. The emergence of a personal style came about from using the theatricality of a larger canvas as a backdrop to scenes which tell stories: abandoned cars from times gone by – whose were they? Where were they going?
Combining a love of Alaska and its landscapes, (occasionally other parts of the world), Americana and the incredible artistry and craftsmanship of classic cars, a new body of work was created. I continue to work in acrylic and also use Rosco, the vibrant scenic paint.
After an exhibition at International Gallery of Contemporary Art in 2013, my work is now sold through Stephan Fine Art Gallery, Anchorage, Alaska. I have also had a solo exhibition at the City Hall Art Gallery in Hamilton, Bermuda, in 2010.
A recent project, inspired by the threat to theatre in the wake of the global pandemic, has led to the reworking of a whole wealth of my past designs for panto over the years into paintings, all acrylic on canvas. They will be exhibited at the Elgiva Theatre, Buckinghamshire, in December 2020 and continue as a touring show, aiming to keep the art, the joy and the pure escapism of panto in people’s lives at a time when we need it more than ever.