Hair tran­scends the tur­bu­lent 60s


In se­lect­ing Hair as its sec­ond pro­duc­tion for 2016, Abbey Mu­si­cal Theatre has cho­sen a mu­si­cal that tran­scends the tur­bu­lent decade it was set in.

The themes of peace, anti-war, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism, drugs and the sex­ual rev­o­lu­tion which con­fronted the world, and Amer­ica in par­tic­u­lar, in the late 1960s are age­less and res­onate with today’s young peo­ple.

Di­rec­tor Damian Thorne says these is­sues are just as rel­e­vant today and present a pow­er­ful mes­sage to 21st cen­tury au­di­ences. ‘‘It’s about anti-war, protests, per­mis­sive sex – even demon­strat­ing against the Star Span­gled Ban­ner is so ap­pro­pri­ate as we de­bate get­ting rid of our own flag,’’ he says.

With the strug­gle of an anti­estab­lish­ment group try­ing to make sense of the world around them, be­ing re­lo­cated in a new age, so too must the cos­tumes re­flect an­other era.

Damian has en­gaged cos­tumer Philip Haus­man to cre­ate a new look for the show. In the past Philip has cre­ated spec­tac­u­lar cos­tumes for the Op­er­atic So­ci­ety, as it was then called, and Cen­tre­point but he’s been coaxed out of re­tire­ment for this pro­duc­tion.

‘‘It was the op­por­tu­nity to work with Damian. We think on the same wave­length,’’ Philip says.

The orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion was cos­tumed and ac­ces­sorised with tie-dyed fab­rics, daisy chains, peace signs and love beads, how­ever, for the new mil­len­nium, Philip wants to mesh the past with the present.

‘‘We’re creat­ing our own look. It will be com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the orig­i­nal but with strong ref­er­ences back to the 1960s. It will make the show time­less,’’ he ex­plains.

The psychedelic im­print of the hip­pie move­ment will be re­tained but the pen­du­lum has moved to in­ject a strong mil­i­tary pres­ence in the cos­tumes. ‘‘Each in­di­vid­ual cos­tume will have an el­e­ment of both. They’ll have a mil­i­tary ex­te­rior but a psychedelic in­te­rior,’’ Philip says. ‘‘They must be mul­ti­func­tional. My chal­lenge is to cre­ate a cos­tume that trans­forms it­self from long flares to hot pants.’’

‘‘The trench­coat in turn opens to re­veal an LSD trip on stage.’’

Philip started to se­ri­ously con­sider the cos­tumes six months ago. He be­gan by re­search­ing the orig­i­nal era, tap­ping into Damian’s brain, seek­ing fab­rics from the ‘60s and ‘70s and creat­ing cross-over gar­ments in his mind.

Now six weeks out he’s fine tun­ing each look and en­sur­ing the cos­tumes and ac­ces­sories are flam­boy­ant and func­tional. They’ll be so good that Philip would like to stage a fash­ion show with them.

‘‘When peo­ple go to Hair I want them to re­mem­ber the cos­tumes as well as the im­pact of the pro­duc­tion,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s that dy­namic that’s brought me back to the theatre.’’

AMT’s Hair, runs from May 19 to June 4 at The Au­di­to­rium, Cen­ten­nial Drive. For book­ings, visit AMT’s web­site.

Damian Thorne (left) and Philip Haus­man dis­play one of Wayne Roberts’ pan­els as part of

AMT’s Hair set de­sign.

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