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Vale Dean Hills

Image: Dean Hills pictured right, with his partner Matthias.


It is with great sadness that we heard of Dean Hills’ passing in his home in Germany.


Dean Hills was an award-winning Set and Costume Designer for State Theatre Company South Australia and designed many shows over the 1990s and the early 2000s, before moving to Germany in 2008 to focus on producing his unique artworks.


He became highly respected through his dedication and eagle-eyed focus on the fine details but always with a sense of fun and joy. His creativity knew no bounds and his forays into whimsy delighted everyone.  He was a set designer of exceptional skill and imagination but he was also known as the master “frock designer”. Dean became a great friend to many he worked with and was highly respected and much loved.


Dean worked on many shows for State Theatre Company South Australia, including Don’s Party, Gary’s House, Art, Emma Celebrazione, How I Learned to Drive, Scapin, The Daylight Atheist, The Government Inspector, Life x 3, The Great Man, The Mystery of Irva Vep, The Venetian Twins, Third World Blues, The Real Thing, Things We Do For Love, Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet, Haxby’s Circus, Little Women, Tales from the Arabian Nights and Taming of the Shrew.


He also worked for Oddbodies Theatre Company, Come Out, Australian Theatre for Young People, Patch Theatre Company, TheatreWorks Singapore Ltd, Outlet Dance, Toe Truck Theatre, Vitalstatistix, Magpie Theatre and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. One of Dean’s lasting costume legacies are the Cirkidz Troupe costumes, often seen on stilts during the Christmas Pageant.


Here are some words from former Artistic Director Adam Cook, who worked closely with Dean during his time at the Company:


I first met Dean when I was teaching at NIDA and he was a student in the Design Course there. When we worked together in Adelaide some years later, I always enjoyed his unique blend of a fertile imagination, technical rigour and a very dry sense of humour. He had a calm, relaxed presence and he was easy to collaborate with. For all these reasons, it was a huge pleasure to work with him. He designed a lot of shows for State Theatre Company, including my very first as Artistic Director of the company, Gogol’s The Government Inspector featuring 10 South Australian actors led by the glorious comic genius of Paul Blackwell.


We wanted to set the production in its period (late 19th century), but with a nod to suburban Australia in the 1950s so while the furniture was all of the original period in which the play was set, it was also wrapped in clear plastic, referencing “the good room” in our parents’ houses. Dean was so good at juggling the real and the heightened in his designs and our audience’s collective imagination was all the richer for it. He had an extraordinary eye for detail and brought a stylish wit and panache to his designs. Our workshop and wardrobe departments always trusted his judgement and looked forward to working with him. When Dean was designing a show, we all knew we were in for an exciting time.


When Dean moved to Germany, it was a loss to Australian theatre design, and also a great loss for our audiences, because he had thrilled and delighted us with his striking imagination on so many occasions, and we wanted more! I really missed working with him. He always elevated my ideas and made them so much better. He had so much talent and he was such great company.


And now the world has lost a great soul, a great spirit, and a wonderful designer.


He is survived by his partner of 27 years, Matthias.


Vale, Dean Hills.