Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Playhouse Creatures Part Three

Better late than never, here are some dress rehearsal images with costumes almost, but not quite ready. Just a few last minute tweaks to be done.

Photography by Matthew Potter - matthewpotter007@yahoo.co.uk

Dot Binns as Doll Common

Becky Sweet as Mrs Betterton

Emily Deere as Mrs Farley

Libby Waite as Mrs Marshall

Rebecca Wass as Nell Gwyn


Libby Waite as Mrs Marshall

Mrs Farley concealing her bump!

Mrs M and Nell as boys as girls!

Mrs F fallen in the gutter

Becky Sweet as Mrs Betterton

Doll in full flight

Mrs M and Mrs B as Amazons

A scene from Antony and Cleopatra

Mrs F and Mrs M

Mrs Betterton studying her parts

Nell in her first role

A scene from the Provok'd Wife

Mrs F in trouble

Nell in more splendid clothes

Nell and Mrs B


Nell Gwyn - Rebecca Wass
Doll Common - Dot Binns
Mrs Betterton - Becky Sweet
Mrs Marshall - Libby Waite
Mrs Farley - Emily Deere

Director - Lucinda Bray
Set and Lighting Design - Rhett Davies
Costume Design - Amanda Greenway
Wigs styling - Mary Elliot
Hair and make up - Bella Allain
Stage Manager - Verity Roat

Back again soon with more tales from the wardrobe................
Back again soon with more tales 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Playhouse Creatures Part Two

We had our work cut out on this show. January productions are usually quite light on the design side as the Christmas show is always so full on. However, this one proved an exception to the rule with many costume requirements. Apart from Doll Common who only has the one costume, Mrs Betterton has 7 changes, Mrs Farley has 7, Mrs Marshall has 6  and Nell Gwyn has about 9. I would have loved to update our collection by making some more dresses for this show but time was not on our side.  In fact, mention is made in the play about the slightly shabby state of the costumes so some of our well loved 17th century gowns fitted the bill quite well. This time I just have to content myself with making new corsets and updating and tarting up some or our existing frocks.

When we first meet Nell she is a grubby little barmaid and is wearing an unadorned muslin chemise and a calico corset (this was actually the trial corset we made for fittings and to work out the pattern, but waste not want not!)

Pretty Nell in the dressing room sporting calico corset 

 By the second act, she has found favour with the King and is sporting altogether more beautiful garments like this brocade corset and lace adorned chemise.

Detail of Nell's pretty corset. Probably a pressie from the King
Lace sleeved chemise

As you can see, the corsets are pretty low cut. In fact, it was quite the fashion for ladies to expose a great deal of bosom. But for the sake of modesty, I didn't insist on this for our actors!

The real Nell Gwyn displaying a fair amount of cleavage!

As I mentioned earlier, we do have rather a lot of costume at the Maddermarket so quite often I can reuse items. It's always fun to completely renovate a garment. Bring it back to life. We also are lucky in that we have an abundance of vintage haberdashery which makes such a difference to the look of a costume. Modern materials just don't cut it. Too much polyester and the colours are too harsh.

Before - In need of some TLC

After - Looking much more like it.

This is Mrs Marshall's final dress in which she collects the theatre shares for herself and Nell. It is a shot purple/black silk with a pink satin stomacher and has a separate white underskirt. Whilst rummaging around for some black lace for the waterfall sleeve trimming, I came across a bag full of this purple taffeta crimped trimming. It was the perfect match so it went around the sleeves and the bodice. I made some little bows of graduating size from some lovely worn black and white grosgrain ribbon and finished the edges off with some   narrow black ladder lace (very useful stuff. I've used loads of it over the years but have nearly run out now!).

Well, the show went up last night and was a great success and next week I will post some pictures from the final dress rehearsal. All that is left for me to do now is clear up this chaos!


I would also just like to say a huge thank you to all my volunteers without who this would not be possible. At all! So thank you to Romilly for corset wrangling, Julia for saving the day in the snow, Eileen for being amazing and always there and to Judith, Behira, Clarissa and Sarah. Also a big thanks to Mary for re styling Nell's and Mrs B's wigs and to Bella for doing the hair and make up and not forgetting Chrissie and her army of dressers.

Back next week for production piccies...................

In the meantime, do come and see the show if you can.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Playhouse Creatures Part One

2013 kicks off at the Maddermarket Theatre  with Playhouse Creatures by April de Angelis. It is a modern play about some of the first women on the British stage in the Restoration era ( late 17th century) including most notably, Nell Gwyn.

It is set in the tiring room (or dressing room) of a theatre where the actresses live their lives between the scenes on stage and the action off stage. It is a pretty costume heavy production but because the action on stage is swift and flowing, I didn't want it to be hampered by lots if unnecessary costume changes. For the most part, the actors will be wearing a basic costume of chemise, corset and petticoat. This is their undress state. Costume changes will be done on stage as part of the action and dresses and symbolic pieces will go over the basic costume.

The first thing I do as costume designer, after reading the play, is to do my research. This has become a lot easier of late thanks to Pinterest. I use this to create mood boards and find appropriate images and it creates an on line pin board that I can update and show the director and actors.

Playhouse Creatures mood board

Next job is to go through our enormous costume collection (over 50,000 items - one of the largest collections in the country) and select costumes for each character.

Just seen here is Nell's wig pre styling, her  pale blue silk shoes and  a sea green satin bodice

Often a colour palate will suggest itself. Lots of dusky pinks, greys and greens in this show
Now the fun starts. The fittings with the actors. The easiest to costume was the character of Doll Common. Unlike the other characters, she remains constant and unchanged throughout the play and only needs one costume. Doll is like the spirit of the theatre, almost a ghost. Timeless. She is also a grubby old woman who doesn't change her clothes or wash! I wanted her to look like she had fallen into a basket of dirty costumes.

Dot Binns as Doll Common complete with long , straggly wig. Washing machine optional!