Thursday, 3 January 2019

The Sound of Music Begins!

The Sound of Music is the next big production for Bournemouth Musical Theatre Productions, being staged at the Regent Centre Theatre Christchurch from the 29th of May to the 1st of June.

As usual myself and Lisa, head of costume, are set to have a meeting to discuss costumes for the show, but not usual is the message I received the day before New Years Eve! With a promotional photoshoot being set for this week, the hire costume that was planned for use was unavailable, as was BMT's own apron, to make the initial outfit for 'Maria' in the shoot. Knowing the show and the film I knew exactly the look they wanted for the initial Maria look, the novice nun before she is sent to the Von Trapp's. The original message was to ask if I had anything that might be appropriate as it was needed for collection by the second of January. As I had nothing appropriate, I was requested to make the dress and apron - this is the first costume since university that I have made in less then 48 hours, and I must say I am very proud of it! 

As it was last minute no one had the performers measurements yet, so I was asked to make it to a standard UK size 10. This presented another set of challenges as again I have gotten to used to making costumes to measurements I had to look up the UK standard on the internet and there are a lot of conflicting measurements on there. I decided that in case they decided to go with the standard twirl photo, to make the skirt as well as the apron full and as close to a circle skirt as I could manage with the pleating so that it would provide the best effect on camera. 

In the event that we use this costume for the show and it involves quick changes I will have to make adjustments to the fastenings and the apron attachment, there is currently a zip fastening the dress and the apron is held with the traditional two pins in the top corners - in terms of general use though, if there are no quick change, it should work well.

Making the apron allowed me to try out a new pleating technique I had seen demonstrated online - using a fork to make perfectly even pleats - and it actually worked! This saved me an incredible amount of time in pleating the apron to the desired volume while keeping the pleats neat and even.

Hopefully soon I will be able to put up the photos from the photo shoot of my costume being worn. I am very excited to be working with Bournemouth Musical Theatre Productions on what will be my sixth big show with them, and I cannot wait for my meeting with Lisa to find out what I will be doing!

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Christmas Costumes!

In the run up to Christmas, with no panto on the horizon this year unfortunately, it was suggested to me that I try making some Christmas costumes for sale. This is something that I have never tried before, having always made for either shows or commissions to a specific brief, and always to specific measurements!

At first I started making hats and scarves (after all, what is a being from the North Pole if not one that requires warm clothing?) From there I must admit that I went with the more obvious fabrics first, red tartan and other fleeces, with two exceptions - the first being my Elf-On-Strike hat! Not working to a brief I confess this was more inspired by the fact it was the first of the Christmas pieces I was attempting, right at the beginning of November and so I was not overly in the festive spirit. This is the first time I have attempted large scale hand embroiders, I was embroidering on fleece so I used multiple embroidery threads and a bodkin to make sure the embroidery was substantial enough to last without warping the fabric.

From hats I wanted to make full costumes, so I decided to start with elves - not the everyday interpretations but something a little bit different, and special. Having to do it to non-production specifications was interesting, I am so used to thinking about the production requirements when making a costume! I decided to do the elves out of synthetic fabrics with a lining.

Thinking of what makes an elf - the colours, red and/or green are synonymous in the UK at least, so that was a good jumping off point, as well as a bit of sparkle, it is for Christmas after all! So I started with basic shape designs, then chose my fabrics according to my self imposed budget. I had spare calico that I used to draft a basic pattern also helped by my borrowed dress form!

Another fun skill I got to learn from this was how to make frogging from cord. This is an incredibly difficult and fiddly process, and I must admit that if you can get exactly what you need online, it is worth the extra expense! However if you can't wait, or you just can't find the right colour of type of frogging you need it is possible to make it, just be prepared to fail miserably the first few times no matter how many different how-to's or tutorials you try online! In the end I knew the basic shapes I wanted and just ended up working with the cord until I figured out a way to make them that made sense to me and that I could work with.

Above - one of my first elves right before I added the buttons 

A fabric that in theatre I have never actually gotten to work with before is fleece, stage lights and hot theatre's not being overly conducive to hot costumes! However it is by far one of the easiest fabrics I have used, and I loved making this Nutcracker inspired costume below.
My Nutcracker, 1

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Candide and West Green House Opera

In July I was able to spend an amazing four days in the grounds of West Green House, working as wardrobe assistant under wardrobe mistress Aly Fielden on West Green House Opera's production of Candide, fantastic as this was the first opera I have ever worked on, I was able to embellish and alter costumes as well as make some Nun hats! I have no photos to put on here unfortunately but if you are in Hook for the two weeks of the summer of the Opera I highly recommend it!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

'Anything Goes'

We are now post-show, and what a show it was! Anything Goes with Bournemouth Musical Theatre Productions at the Regent Centre in Christchurch, we had a four day five show run last week closing on Saturday and it was a triumph! I was back on board as costume assistant and wardrobe mistress (some designing and making, a lot of alterations and repairs, and again prepping and running the wardrobe and dresser team for the run!) There were plenty of quick changes, the shortest of which was 15 seconds, rivalling the 12 second Spamalot quick change.

Before I get into backstage though, the costumes. I was working again with the wonderful BMTP head of costume Lisa Stead. The majority of the costumes were hired from a wonderful company in Guildford that has been active for 30 years, however not everything we needed could be found there. After the read through I drew up a selection of costume designs, late 20's and early 30's, just in case we couldn't find what we needed from hires and buys, and I am so proud that two of my designs were selected by Lisa - a wedding dress design and a day dress design - to be made for the show, with the day dress design being used for four matching day dresses for Reno's Angels, used by them for the majority of their scenes. Not only that but I was also asked to make the iconic Palazzo trousers for Reno and her Angels! I had a four page to-do list of alterations and repairs that accumulated in the weeks before the show, but there were so many small bits I wont go into detail, and instead stick with the designing and making!

The onstage photos are provided by Paul Thompson of Oakphotography.

Day Dresses;
Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a close-up professional photo of all the Angels on stage together in their day dresses, however I got one of them all together backstage, and two professional photos of them during scenes. My initial design was shorter, and a dark blue that I had envisioned for Erma's character as an evening dress, however making it knee length and a pale blue brought them into daywear. In order to keep them more period specific and to better accommodate the fabric we were using for them I bias cut the dresses, which when standing correctly as onstage in the below photos suited them wonderfully!

Above - Angels in day dresses, front right stairs, third back left stairs

Above - Angels in their day dresses on the left stairs

 Above - Angels in their day dresses backstage

Above, photo during the making process, before the second fitting to correct the length and before the sleeves are hemmed.

The Wedding Dress;
The wedding dress was a labour of love, I absolutely loved both designing and making this dress! A 1930's bias cut, which is something I have never done before but surprisingly enjoyed. Originally I designed this as a V-neck but due to concerns of the performer I changed it to a higher, round neck which was also period and suited better. I originally also designed it with a line of buttons up the front as a mock fastening and point of interest, however after seeing it on I decided to leave it without the front buttons as the clean lines were so elegant.

The Finale! Wedding dress to the right of the photograph

  Our Hope in her wedding dress on set between Saturdays Matinee and Evening shows
A little shot of detailing on the sleeve cuff - I added three buttons to each cuff and elastic mock rouleau loops

The Palazzo Trousers;
Due to a photoshoot to promote the show a few weeks before we opened, the white Reno palazzo trousers were the first ones that I made! After examining the way they hung and where they were fitted I decided not to cut them on the bias, and instead to put long zips and where necessary additional Velcro on the side of the trousers. For the front, I found the most effective and simple way to do the front section was to do a stitched pleat each side of the centre line going into the pressed line down the centre of the leg, adding the buttons on to make them look as though there is an additional panel. I repeated this for the dark blue trousers as well, as with the other costumes making each to the measurements of the performer. The white trousers are the only ones with the mock turn ups, made by stitching a tube of fabric to the bottom of the trouser legs and securing it up with a swing catch at each side - yes it is the return of the rare swing catch! The fabric used for the trousers, both white and blue, is the same as the light blue day dresses, and it was due to the photoshoot that we discovered that, unlike the light blue fabric, the white was partially see-through and definitely needed lining! This was simple enough to add and below you can see photos of the white lined trousers on-stage.

Unlike the other costumes there were some fantastic professional photos of the trousers!

 Anything Goes! The Angels and Reno in the Palazzo trousers on stage

The Angels backstage in their Palazzo Trousers

 The white Palazzo trousers just after I finished them, before pressing

As wardrobe mistress, this show was a different animal from Wizard of Oz and Spamalot where the majority of costume changes were for specific songs, instead there were a lot of multiple quick changes for the same performers during single scenes, and quick changes to accommodate the dance sections of certain numbers, and the fastest and most prolific set of changes during a certain scene in the first act, including a change of just under a minute out of two layered costumes to the third base layer, with another layer again added over the top to be stripped out of on-stage! For this I had my largest dresser team yet, with myself and five others on rotation of three or four at a time, who are currently students at the Arts University Bournemouth.

The next Bournemouth Musical Theatre Productions is already chosen, but I will not announce it on here yet as I don't want to ruin the surprise!

Friday, 26 January 2018

Pantomime - A Town Is Bourne

It has been a nicely busy Winter season for me as I went straight from Starlight Express into a pantomime! The show - 'A Town Is Bourne' at the Shelley Theatre, Boscombe - was written and directed by James Jones, who also played the Dame, Cherry Winkle. The concept was locally based, an idea on how Bournemouth could have been given its name.

I was fortunate enough to be asked to design for the production, my first pantomime, with stipulations from the director as to a rough idea of the period of influence - an element of the 1840's/1880's - and the colour themes for the three main families. Smocks were also requested for our two smugglers, again based on local history as one of the more infamous smugglers of the region, Gulliver, dressed his men in smocks. This was a fascinating experience for me as it is rare for pantomimes to have so much of a historical element in the look, but it was incredibly interesting meshing the two into a cohesive whole. The underlying theme throughout the pantomime was one of competition - with this in mind I added a visual element to the two parent couples who were the main competitors against one another particularly the fathers. For the Lord I had an ever growing cravat, every time he came on stage his cravat would have grown. For the Captain, I had his epaulettes increasing in size every time he went back on stage. It began very subtly but by the time the finale arrived it was very obvious! I was going to have the two mothers of the competing families also having a visually competing element, with one side having increasingly puffy sleeves and the other an increasingly embellished hat, however at the dress rehearsal the sleeves were not at all noticeable and detracted from the overall look and so I decided to stick with the men on having the visual element to play off each other. We also had our femme fatale, Saffron, the 'showgirl' who was incredible fun to design for.

Initially I was meant to be designing the costumes and wardrobe mistressing as my main roles, and assisting the costume maker, but due to circumstances beyond their control our costume maker had to withdraw from the production at short notice, I agreed to step into the role. Thankfully she was able to lend us waistcoats and a coat for the use of the production, as well as three dresses that could be completely remade as required.

Of the dresses, the blue dress I used for Emily. I changed the neckline and bound it in gold, removing and replacing the sleeves for a different style. The skirt was coming away at the waist but instead of removing it I added a new skirt over the top in a different fabric, leaving the original skirt underneath for a fuller effect to the skirt.
The other two dresses I had the two 'mothers' wear under their costumes as additional undergarments in order to again add more fullness to the skirts and additional structure in the bodice as I did not want to use corsets.

All the rest of the costumes were made from scratch.

Working on this show gave me the opportunity to work with fantastic makeup artist Sophie May Melville, who did an outstanding job with makeup and hair.

Cherry Winkle was without doubt my favourite to design as this was my first Dame costume! She was Perry the fisher mans mother so despite the colour theme of silver and grey for the colour theme of the Winkles this gave me a lot to work with, with pink, blue and green as the accent colours, I was able to make this a much more lively costume! The fish you may recognise as well, they are indeed the Spamalot fish I made for the number 'Fisch Schlapping'! The hat was also a new one for me as I haven't made any hats before, only masks and headpieces. Due to time constraints and not knowing at that point what the wig was going to be like I bought a fabric hat base, in pink, and built onto that enabling it to be pinned to the wig. The chest and hat shells and fish were stuffed with sponge.

Dame Cherry Winkle

 The hat, with the wig sourced and styled by makeup artist Sophie Melville!

 Perry, principal boy, and Emily, principal girl

Due to a special appearance at the Bournemouth Christmas Market, Perry's costume was the first that I made, with a stand in dress for Emily due to time constraints.

 Toby and Beth
Special thanks to Amy Cox for very generously donating an afternoon to help me by adding all of the bias binding to the Toby jacket!

The Tregonwells
Captain Tregonwell (Left) is based on a combination of an 1840's and an 1880's naval captains uniform, with the first of his five gold epaulettes (Epaulette set 5 in top group photo). Lady Tregonwell (Right) is one of the two with the secondary dress beneath for added structure.

 Lord and Lady Tapps-Gervis
Lord Tapps-Gervis without his coat, with the first of his five cravats (Cravat 5 in top group photo) Lady Tapps-Gervis is the second of the two dresses with the secondary dress beneath for added structure.
Chris Creeke
One of our two smugglers but unfortunately I did not manage to get an individual shot of the other Creeke brother, only in the group shot at the top of the post!

And lastly but by no means least, Saffron, our femme fatale, the 'showgirl' villain of the piece who was definitely one of my very favourite costumes to make!

In terms of wardrobe mistressing, the cast were wonderful to work with as was our venue, the Shelley Theatre, and Sophie was a wonderful makeup artist to work alongside. The show required very little in the way of changes and repairs, and so only required myself and my backstage kit on costume during the show.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Starlight Express

Bournemouth Musical Theatre Productions run of Starlight Express finished last night and was a smashing success!

For this show with BMTP I was not only wardrobe mistress but in addition I was the makeup designer, and also designed and made several costume pieces for the show. I created each performer a makeup design specifically tailored to their character and costume. The makeup for this was an interesting challenge to design for a full show of trains - the costumes were primarily hired, we had been sent photographs of them and it was a case of making sure the makeup matched the costumes and character but in addition to this we had several ensemble performers who's costumes were being decided later, and costume parts that I was designing based on body armour ordered by head of costume the brilliant Lisa Stead.

Being wardrobe mistress on this show was actually quite a simple job once the run had started - other then dressing one performer who had five quick changes there were no other changes in the show, the rest being keeping on top of any running repairs and there were remarkably few!

I also had the opportunity to create my first large scale costume prop in a long while - a train 'pilot' piece for the character Poppa. As our performer playing Poppa was a last minute addition due to the original performer having to leave the production, he was unable to skate and therefore a prop was requested to distract from the fact he was the only performer not in skates. Using a zimmer frame provided by Lisa, I researched old steam trains and discovered the pilot piece, originally used to clear snow and debris from the track, and using correx and acrylic paint turned the zimmer frame into a pilot piece.

This was not my first time designing makeup for every single character of a show, and I found it a joy and an incredibly interesting challenge as this was my first time designing for all of them as trains- once they were all in costumes and makeup it was wonderful seeing all my designs as a cohesive group. 

Of the costume pieces, I was in charge of Poppa, the body armour of the components (Purse, Volta, Wrench and Joule), Rhurgold (the German Train), Turnov (the Russian Train) and Electra. Electra in particular I was incredibly excited for as his costume is one that due to his role as the new, electric train it is crucial for him to have an impressive and fundamentally different visual impact. Lisa provided lights for Electra and the components for me to incorporate into the costumes.

Poppas base costume was provided by Lisa, a sepia coloured set of dungarees and shirt that I was given free reign to do whatever I liked with. We needed an identical duplicate for one of the races as our performer playing Poppa could not skate, being a last minute addition to the cast due to original performer unfortunately having to leave the production. I designed the patterns of cogs and panels to be painted onto the costumes, and once I received approval of the designs from Lisa I got to work! As his character was a rusty old steam train, very beaten up and worn by time I wanted to reflect this in his costume and makeup, entirely aged metal and rust colours with cogs showing behind rusty panels, rivets brown from age and really visually play up that aspect of his character.

For the components I wanted to visually represent their roles as Electras carriages and the individual characters, using takes on coolant, health, money and hazard symbols, incorporating them into both the body armour designs and the makeup to make sure there was no mistaking their character or role down to the most subtle detail in having them individual but clearly connected to Electra, incorporating stripes and lightning bolt designs in colours that would not only compliment their characters but tie them together as a unit. For their makeup, I designed them to mimic Electra in the white base with lightning bolts on the cheeks in colours tailored to each of their costumes, with thin coloured lines on their noses for contour and lines on the forehead framing their individual character symbol, and eyelid makeup going back into their hairline, again mirroring Electra in both shaping and colour though not as bold or big as Electra as he needed to stand out with a massive visual impact. To make sure that all aspects of the makeup were clear and precise to represent their roles as the brand new trains I designed each element to be outlined by thin, precise black lines.

For Electra, as the electric train and as his hired base costume had set colours already in place, it was all about creating as much visual impact as possible using white and gold lightning bolts on bright blue, with bright blue and white stripes on the arms and epaulettes. I stitched lights onto all of the components body armour and Electras using a clear thread so as to not have any visual breaks in the lights. For Electra I was given a sound-reactive light piece that was incredibly effective during the show - this was interesting to attach to the costume as their was an incredibly fragile connection that I had to be careful not to bend or twist. The best way I found to add this was using a box made of correx plastic that, with a hole cut into it behind the light panel, could effectively hold the wires and have the connector stabilised within it without causing a negative visual impact on the costume. So that we could turn the lights on and off as needed I attached the battery packs to the top and underneath of the attached box and painted them to make them a part of the costume.
For his makeup I again used the lightning bolt symbols, incorporating the shape into his forehead design and adding shaping to his nose with lightning bolts in opposing colours on each side, with each eyelid a different colour mirrored by the opposite on the lower lid. For his lips and chin I wanted to make it another point of interest, making his top lip red and bottom one blue - broken in the middle by white, with the blue striping down his chin on each side of the break again. Each shape and line was accented with a strong metallic silver as well as thin, precise black lines to make sure each element stood out to maximum effect.

Turnov and Rhurgolds body armour was particularly interesting to work with due to the countries and trains that they represented.

For Rhurgold the German train, due to the bold colours of the German flag I wanted to incorporate that as much as possible using thick, clear, bold lines in both the armour and the makeup, reflecting the clear, precise air of the character. At the theatre a light was added to the front of his costume by Lisa which created a fantastic effect.

 For Turnov, being the Trans Siberian Express, I researched the train itself which is still running and found the star symbol is prominently on the front. I wanted to keep that in and make it a recognisable feature for the costume and makeup. My research into the makeup of previous productions showed a tendency towards the masculine and androgynous, and as our Turnov was female I wanted to make the Turnov makeup feminine while still being strong and dignified as the character is, so I used red for the lips and eye lids, with a line of white under the eyes and again incorporated the star design onto both of the cheeks maintaining character and lending femininity while not detracting from the strict air of the character.

It is difficult not to make this post so long when I want to go into detail of the design decisions I made for everyones makeup as each had their points of interest and reasoning behind each visual decision that I made but I don't want to run on too long. However there is another set that I want to mention as they again were an interesting challenge to design a cohesive group of very individual characters and that was the original four main carriages - Pearl, Dinah, Buffy and Duvay. On these I kept the bases soft, the colours strong and defined but the shaping and patterning was smaller and a lot more delicate then on the components to have the contrast between the two groups.

With that I will let the production photographs speak for themselves as the Producer Dougie has given me permission to post them!