In Conversation.... with Peter Mumford

So while I don’t like being nostalgic, I think that now it is 50 years since I left the Central School of Art to begin working professionally, there is no harm in being reflective.  


When you begin you only look forward, one project leads to another. A single decision can change your direction entirely. Your life or your next piece of work.  A chance meeting can turn into a relationship that will last for years. A success can make your future, and a failure shatter your dreams, but most of these events ultimately do not prevent one from looking forward.  Like Lot and his wife or Orpheus and Eurydice, don’t look back or something dies or turns to stone.


So you move forward only thinking of the now and what is or might be to come in the future. Working as an artist in the world of theatre, this come quite naturally as each project demands originality. Each piece of work has to be fresh and new and of its moment in time. 


I worked like this for years. Each piece of work that I created led to the next, the challenge being to constantly create something new each time, something that hadn’t been seen before.  In a way I rejected the idea of having a history, and much of my early work was disposable, a one off.  When the show was over, it pretty much disappeared. Designing for theatre as an art form is very ephemeral, unlike the work of a writer, painter or sculptor. I think this is a natural and totally justifiable approach to the early part of one’s career in theatre.


There does become a point, maybe two to three decades in, when you have to recognise that you have a past. People remind you that you made this opera or play ten years ago… or twenty even.

Peter Mumford - 11th December 2019, National Theatre London


You can hear more from Peter’s In Conversation event from December at the National Theatre where he chatted with Victoria Brennan in the two-part podcast available at