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!

Luckily, we already had quite a stock of 17th century costume but I was very keen to make new corsets and chemises as these would be the main costumes and  would really give the authentic look

Pattern and fabric swatches

one of the finished corsets

Back tomorrow to bring you some more work in progress and rehearsal photographs

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