ENG­LAND

THINK EL­IZ­A­BETHAN ENG­LAND… A GEN­ER­A­TION OF SO­CIAL HI­ER­AR­CHY CLIMB­ING HIGH ON THE RO­MANCE OF FRESH PO­ETRY, LIT­ER­A­TURE AND MUSIC PRO­LIFIC TO ITS TIME. BUT WHEREFORE ART THOU EX­QUIS­ITE TU­DOR STYLE FASH­ION NOW?

SHIBUI Issue - - CONTENTS - CU­RA­TOR BRISEIS ONFRAY THE MAK­ERS ROYAL SHAKE­SPEARE COM­PANY, COS­TUME MAK­ERS IN­TER­VIEW WITH ALIS­TAIR MCARTHUR, HEAD OF COS­TUME PHO­TOS © ROYAL SHAKE­SPEARE COM­PANY COUN­TRY ENG­LAND

El­iz­a­bethan society was climb­ing high on po­etry, lit­er­a­ture and music, but wherefore art thou Tu­dor style fash­ion now?

To­day, the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany (RSC) draws over 1 mil­lion vis­i­tors to its stages in Strat­ford-up­onAvon each year and also broad­casts pro­duc­tions ‘live’ to cinema au­di­ences in 20 coun­tries, in­clud­ing China. With a global au­di­ence still en­am­oured by Bri­tain’s rich, cul­tural her­itage, the team at the RSC have an im­pres­sive re­spon­si­bil­ity to bring Shake­spearean script back to life on the stage.

Alis­tair McArthur is the Head of Cos­tume with 15 years work­ing at the RSC up his sleeve. He shares this won­der­ful world of Shake­spearean the­atre from be­hind the scenes.

HOW LONG HAS THE COS­TUME WORK­SHOP BEEN AN IN­TE­GRAL PART OF THE RSC, AND HOW MANY MAK­ERS ARE ON THE TEAM TO­DAY?

The Cos­tume Work­shop has been op­er­at­ing at the RSC since the 1940s and is the largest in-house cos­tumemak­ing depart­ment of any Bri­tish

the­atre, em­ploy­ing over 40 peo­ple. From skilled pat­tern and cos­tume mak­ers to milliners, jew­ellers and wig, hair and make-up artists, the crafts­man­ship in­volved in ev­ery cos­tume and how a cos­tume looks and feels, en­ables the ac­tors to bring their char­ac­ters into life on stage.

HOW DO THE COS­TUME MAK­ERS VISUALISE A PRO­DUC­TION OR CRE­ATIVE BRIEF?

Each pro­duc­tion has a de­signer ap­pointed by the artis­tic di­rec­tor, but the RSC cos­tume teams are re­spon­si­ble for tak­ing the lead de­signer’s two-di­men­sional draw­ings and mak­ing them into three­d­i­men­sional cos­tumes. Ev­ery­thing we do is in re­sponse to what the de­signer re­quires.

WHAT SKILLS ARE RE­QUIRED TO BE A COS­TUME MAKER?

That re­ally de­pends upon the field in which the mak­ers work. Ad­vanced con­struc­tion tech­niques are needed for both male and fe­male cos­tumes, and millinery and block print­ing to jew­ellery mak­ing, colour match­ing, fab­ric dye­ing and leather work tech­niques are all re­quired for cos­tume props. All of our mak­ers can usu­ally sew by hand or ma­chine sew to a very high stan­dard. We make ev­ery­thing from shirts to suits, ball gowns to cloaks, and breast-plates to tur­bans. We also dye and print fab­rics on-site. The only things we don’t make on-site are the footwear and any metal work. We do not use bought pat­terns. Our cut­ters draft each pat­tern from scratch, to fit to each per­former’s mea­sure­ments. The cos­tumes are all hand or ma­chine made by our cos­tu­miers, milliners and leather work­ers.

WITH SO MANY PRO­DUC­TIONS IN PLAY, HOW MANY COS­TUMES ARE MADE PER WEEK, MONTH OR YEAR?

That’s im­pos­si­ble to say as each pro­duc­tion is dif­fer­ent. We may make a lot of pe­riod cos­tumes from scratch or al­ter cos­tumes from stock for some shows. For some mod­ern dress shows, we may buy more items than make. On av­er­age though ap­prox­i­mately 4000 to 5000 cos­tume items may go through our work­rooms an­nu­ally.

THERE MUST BE SOME TIGHT BUD­GETS AND CRAZY DEAD­LINES AT TIMES. WHAT IS AN AL­MOST IM­POS­SI­BLE PROJECT THAT COMES TO MIND?

We are proud to say that we view noth­ing as im­pos­si­ble. Some­times the dead­lines add ex­tra pres­sure when we are mak­ing cos­tumes for four dif­fer­ent shows at the same time. ‘A Sol­dier in Ev­ery Son’ was a great ex­am­ple – even though it was re­ally

var­ied, ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing work, it re­quired full col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the mak­ers of the work­rooms to cre­ate the ex­tra­or­di­nary de­signs and vi­sion of the cos­tume de­signer.

WHERE DOES THE IN­SPI­RA­TION FOR EACH COS­TUME COME FROM?

The de­signer nor­mally does their re­search from a wide va­ri­ety of sources: art gal­leries, mu­se­ums and the plethora of ref­er­ence books avail­able. The in­ter­net is a wealth of in­spi­ra­tion of course.

WHAT MA­TE­RI­ALS AND TOOLS ARE USED TO MAKE THE GAR­MENTS?

The cos­tume su­per­vi­sor and the cos­tume de­signer will sam­ple fab­rics first and then de­cide which fab­ric is ap­pro­pri­ate for which part of the cos­tume. Some­times, if we can’t find the ex­act item that the de­signer needs, we dye or print the fab­rics be­fore con­struct­ing the cos­tumes. We buy fab­rics from all over the world. A lot of our ma­te­rial comes from woollen mills around Brad­ford with a huge ar­ray of fab­rics com­ing from Lon­don. We also buy fab­ric from Germany, Italy, France, In­dia and the USA. The ma­jor­ity of our thread is from Coats, the world’s lead­ing in­dus­trial thread man­u­fac­turer. De­pend­ing on what the pro­duc­tion de­signer needs, our daily tools in­clude sew­ing ma­chines, anvils, vac for­m­ers, dye vats, dye pow­ders and hat blocks, just to name a few.

WHAT IS THE SHORT­EST AND LONG­EST TIME IT HAS TAKEN TO MAKE A COS­TUME?

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to an­swer this as the va­ri­ety of tasks at hand is so large. A shirt may take two to three hours, yet a full dou­blet and hose could take a week and a half.

WHAT HAP­PENS TO ALL OF THE COS­TUMES AF­TER PRO­DUC­TIONS?

All of our cos­tumes make their way to RSC Cos­tume Hire where they can be hired out by pro­fes­sion­als and am­a­teurs all year around.

LEFT TO RIGHT Cos­tume work­shop: Mak­ing cos­tumes for King Lear and The Rover, July 2016; Head of Cos­tume, Alis­tair McArthur

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.