Monday, 22 September 2014

Landance at the Valley of Stones!

Over the last few weeks I have been working as the Visuals Assistant for Landance under designer Ella Huhne, an associate event of the Inside Out Festival Dorset. Last night was the final show and after an incredibly busy show week I finally have time to write about it!

In the Valley of Stones, which is in the triangle between Bridport, Dorchester and Abbotsbury, there is a circle of stones, and in a promenade performance that took the audience down the valley to the circle Landance, a company made up of 5 professional dancers (Impermanence Theatre, Bristol) and two community dancers, took us into a world of their own devising, through contemporary dance in the landscape based on their reactions to the site. Thankfully the main panic issue that plagues all outdoor performances - namely the weather - was in no way a problem for us as aside from some very atmospheric fog the weather was sunny with a cool breeze to stop it from being too hot.

Primarily I was there to assist Ella in whatever needed doing, but in terms of the visuals aspect from what I was involved in was mainly assisting Ella with anything that needed doing, and helping with the biggest visual aspect - and I do mean in terms of size as it was a 16x16m circle of organza shot through with metal threads! This was created using over 100m of the fabric in lengths, sewn together by the costumer and her assistant. The fabric itself is incredible, it looks like water on the ground but is translucent so when lifted or when the performers interacted with it, you could see them through it and it created a spectacular effect.

In the two days of performances my main role was to set the fabric before the shows and assist with any issues that arose, including but not limited to helping the stewards, patching the fabric, assisting people with mobility issues, assisting building a tent and packing it down again and minding sound equipment. It was an incredibly busy couple of days but was a roaring success.

Monday, 8 September 2014

THE SHOW! Remix Gold - 'Touched'

Last Friday it was on to the Southbank Centre in London for three performances for the Southbank Centre's 'Unlimited' festival! We were given two dressing rooms, and I based myself in the ladies dressing room (for anyone wondering, the Southbank Centre has incredibly nice dressing rooms and was absolutely lovely to us in my limited contact with them)
I arrived a half hour before the cast was expected in order to meet with Alice and Claire, the organisers and masterminds of the performance, and as I arrived was able to see the crew setting up the stage under the Hungerford bridge. After being taken up to the dressing room I got to spend a good amount of time up there by myself setting up the space - putting the costumes on rails, setting out the gloves and shoes in sections for the performers to be based in, laying out the hair products and make-up that I was providing (though many of the cast were bringing there own as a matter of personal preference in the colours that I had requested )
After the cast arrived, they needed a run out of costume, but we realised that once they had had their run through we would only have just over 10 minutes before they would need to go down for the first show, so with the assistance of Alice and the company carers we started getting them in as much of their make-up as we could (leaving off anything that would be smudged by putting on the costumes) and those who's hair we could before they went for their run. After the cast went down I went on a quick run for spares - you can never have enough make-up wipes or spare make-up! - then it was back up to the dressing rooms to get everyone in costume and ready. Just before the run our interpreter had arrived and so I got to see her in costume for the first time and it fit! Not only that but seeing them all together was a treat, as while all the costumes were different, they all gelled into a cohesive unit of 1950's style meets modern day.

Audience reaction at the end of the final show - if you look you can see part of where they all were standing on the bridge above to watch as well!
So without further ado, it was time to go down for the first show! There was a slightly longer gap between the first and second shows then there was before the last, allowing the performers to get out of costume for a short while to have lunch and then to get back into costume and make-up, and for me to re-do their hair, and the shows were a great success.

During the final show there was a minor software glitch that meant that one of the dance numbers got cut short, so they decided that they would do the dance number again as an encore at the end. This also meant that for the first time the wings were visible when the performer was mobile rather then sitting in the hoop at the end of the show.

Working with Remix Gold really was an incredible experience. Going from recieving the brief to designing the costumes to making, sourcing and adapting the costumes in the space of a month has been an incredible experience, and now the show is done in its first set of performances! Next Remix Gold are performing 'Touched' at the weekend for the Inside Out festival, so if you're in the area go down and take a look!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

SHOW PREP! Remix Gold - 'Touched'

Remix Gold is the older branch of Diverse City's youth performance group Remix. The performance, comprised of 6 young performers and an interpreter, was held at the Southbank Centre as part of there 'Unlimited' festival to celebrate disabled artists and performers.
I was taken on just over a month ago as their costume designer and it has been an incredibly busy month!
This show has been an incredible one to work on - and now that it was performed on Friday, I finally have time to write about it in detail!

The final rehearsals and fittings at lighthouse went very well, with a dress run and as a twist I had been asked if I could also come on the performance day and do hair and make-up!That made this not only the first and last time for me to see the cast rehearse in costume, but also my last chance before the show day to practice 1950's hairstyles on the cast!

I had been looking at a young, Grease meets Summer Holiday look for the hair, and had planned to do quiffs on both of the longer haired girls but unfortunately one of their fringes was too short to allow for a quiff, so for her I used a combination of twisting locks into curls flat to her head to pull her hair back from her face and neck. For the girl with the longer fringe I decided on a quiff and pony tail combination. Our last female cast member had a short bob and so I decided it would work best if her hair was curled with a hair clip of either feathers or a flower to hold her hair back from her face.

With a relatively small amount of time to source, make and alter the costumes, I decided to source and alter all I could to give me enough time to alter and embelish all of them to a standard that I was happy with. This I was very sucessful with as I managed to source all but one of the female performers skirts. The costumes were all, with the exception of our interpreter, embellished with rhinestones to give them a touch of glamour that the company were keen to have and to help tie the costumes together. I also used rhinestones in the place of accessories as, for the aerial aspects of the performance it was important to have nothing on the costumes that could risk snagging and pottentially injuring the performers.

For the two of the male members of the cast, I used red and black rhinestones on one to create the appearance of a belt on the waistband of his trousers, and on the other I used lines of black rhinestones on his shirt to give the appearance of braces. The braces in particular I felt were visually effective, though I did have a problem on show day as there was a slight finish on the shirt that made the rhinestones more inclined to come off, thankfully not noticably and I was able to re-attach them in the breaks between shows.
For our third male performer, who the performance is based around, we wanted him to look smart, mature, separate but still a part of the cohesive look. Inially the idea was for him to look a little like a 1950's detective, but with the performers mobility aids this took shape in the form of a smart blue shirt and trousers. The trousers needed to be tracksuit/leisure trousers but look like smart trousers. I found a good pair of elasticated waistband black trousers in M&S, then pressed the fronts so that they looked like smart trousers, which was surprisingly effective. I had initially thought to use a striped trilby hat, but decided, and the team agreed, to not use it as a lot of the audience wouldn't be able to see his face.

On the ladies costumes, the rhinestones were much more pronounced. With the performer in a black skirt and red shirt, I used a thick band of red rhinestones around the waist to create the appearance of a belt, and a thin line of black rhinestones around the collar of her red shirt to give it definition and a bit of a subtle sparkle. The black skirt was a sourced long black circle skirt that, due to the acrobatic nature of the performance needed to be shortened so that there would be less risk of it tangling in her legs. the red shirt was originally long with long sleeves, and slightly loose. I shortened the shirt after marking its length during the first fittings, then removed the sleeves and took in the shirt so that it would not ride up during the performance and preserve the modesty of the performer.

With our performer in the orange skirt and black shirt, I had some issues in sourcing an orange skirt as they are incredibly difficult to find, so this is the only costume piece I fully made, using a poodle skirt pattern and then shortening it from the waistband once it was done. To the waistband of the orange skirt I added a loose pattern of black rhinestones for a bit of interest and subtle sparkle, and to the black shirt I covered the entirety of the collar in orange rhinestones. These I was especially happy with as the orange rhinestones in particular are incredibly bright, especially on black. The black skirt was a sourced stretch shirt, which came with the problem of the top button hole being slightly too wide giving it a tendency to pop open, so after establishing that the performer could pull the shirt on over her head when it was done up with no dificulty, I stitched up the front of the shirt so that it was secure.

For our performer in the yellow dress, who was a major focal point in the production, there were some very specific requirements. A removable back pannel was needed in her dress, to come off during the production to reveal a pair of wings. Thanks to some advice from Kate McStraw, an incredibly tallented costumer who very kindly helped me with one of the fittings, I used power net sewn to the dress to create the look of bare skin to paint the wings on to, as the production team had originally requested that the wings be painted directly onto her back. The dress I sourced was originally a 1950's style wraparound dress, but due to the acrobatics of the performance and the height of the performer there were some extensive alterations to be done! I began by shortening the dress after marking the required length in fittings, then stitched up a section of the skirt, removing the excess wraparound fabric so that the skirt was a single piece, though left open for 6 inches from the waist down to allow her to take it on and off easily. I then added snap fasteners to the front of the dress and the front of the skirt down to the stitched section of skirt. During the fittings I had marked out the size and shape of the back pannel to be removed, and I cut that section out, folding and stitching it to prevent it from fraying, then to the removed pannel I made a piece of bias binding out of the band of removed skirt from where I had shortened it, to widen it so that it would fit over the removed section of the dress. I put in a pannel of power net, and then took it to the final fittings and dress rehearsal.

Dress rehearsal at Lighthouse Theatre, Poole
From watching the dress rehearsal I saw that as the power net was stretchy, the pannel was coming out too big and ruckling when the performer moved, so in the two days before the dress run I tightened the pannel of fabric, and using pearlescent silver, blue, white and silver glitter fabric paints, and outlining in black fabric pen, I added the wings. I had gotten 3 different shades of gold rhinestones, with two colours of 4mm width and the more yellow gold ones at 3mm, and attached them around the collar, down the front of the bodice and then round the waist connecting again at the back. In adding the pannel over the wings, I put in snap fasteners, surrounding them with more rhinestones so that when the pannel was removed the snap fasteners would blend in with the rhinestones

For the three acrobatic performers, there was the additional part of shortening all of their shorts, as during the dress rehearsal, the bottoms of the shorts were visible.
For four of the performers, two of the male performers and two of the ladies, had gloves, all of which needed rhinestones put on the backs of them, an added point of interest on the costumes and emphasising the hands which the company especially wanted.

The reason I dont mention the costume of the interpreter until its nearly the performance day is that I only met her once before the show itself - she was a last minute addition and couldn't make the final dress run for a fitting, and so I found and ordered a suitable dress online in two sizes so that I could make sure the she had a dress that fitted, being only able to try them on her on the performance day itself and the other dress being returned to the retailer!