Friday, 3 August 2012

Ancient and Modern Part 2


It's not all beautiful period dresses at the MMT!

People often assume that it's very difficult to costume a period piece and that a modern play is a piece of cake. It's just clothes isn't it? Well, that's why it is so tricky. With a play like our last production, Priestley's 'When We Are Married' it was very straight forward. The date was 1908, the action took place on one day and in Yorkshire and we had some upstanding members of the community and their staff and some lovely 'salt of the earth' characters. We had a lot of turn of the century costume in stock so the only tricky bits were getting clothes to fit and finding the right accessories

The Rev Mercer and Lottie Grady
Annie Parker, Clara Soppitt, Maria Helliwell and Herbert Soppitt
Fabulous wigs ladies!

However, with a modern play there isn't so much to go on. Audiences are very used to modern clothes and a lot of the costume/character shorthand often employed just doesn't work. A further layer of complexity is added when the designer reduces your palate to black and grey!

This is the current challenge I am faced with on this Summer's Christie 'A Murder Is Announced' The director and set designer are breaking with tradition and are bringing Miss Marple bang up to date.  The main problems I have to overcome are the fact that we have quite a limited stock of modern clothes so I'm having to scour the local charity shops. Also, the family at the centre of the play are quite wealthy in an 'old money' kind of way. This is quite hard to achieve on a limited budget and a diet of Oxfam and Primark so I will have to unleash my inner Gok and do some crafty styling.

I don't very often ask actors to bring in their own clothes. It is important for an actor to get into character and one way of doing this is by getting into costume. But for this play I may be calling in some of the actors own clothes to mix with items from the wardrobe.

50 Shades of Grey!

There is the odd occasion when the cut price clothing emporium is the costumiers friend. Earlier this year we put on an amazing piece of theatre by Shelagh Stephenson called '5 Kinds of Silence'. It is about domestic violence and the director staged it in a very stylistic way borrowing from Japanese Karuko theatre methods. He also had a very firm idea of how he wanted it to look. Again a limited palate of black, white red and grey. The father in black trousers, white shirt and red tie and at one point, a black overcoat with a red lining. His wife and two daughters were to be dressed identically in grey dresses that represented their repressed situation. The script also called for them to wear identical red coats to be in their fathers 'little army'. As luck would have it, a certain high street store had three military style red duffle coats reduced in their sale along with some grey jersey dresses that fitted the directors specifications exactly.

Production photographs from Peter Ashmore Visuals
It was one of the very few occasions that I virtually costumed a play in a day from one shop!

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