The big Bing the­ory

Top cos­tume and pup­pet de­signer Tahra Za­far has worked on ev­ery­thing from block­buster movies to the Lon­don Olympics. She tells MAR­ION McMULLEN about her new chal­lenge to bring CBee­bies favourite Bing to the stage

Uxbridge Gazette - - Spotlight -

What was it like work­ing on the open­ing and clos­ing cer­e­monies for the Lon­don Olympic and Par­a­lympic cer­e­monies?

IT WAS ex­tra­or­di­nary to do – 23,000 cos­tumes. I’m very proud of it. It’s was the equiv­a­lent of hav­ing my own West End show. It was a great ca­reer mo­ment and I feel very for­tu­nate to have been a part of it.

Was there a lot of se­crecy in­volved in the plan­ning?

EV­ERY­THING had to be kept se­cret be­fore­hand; es­pe­cially the in­volve­ment of the Queen for ex­am­ple. I was deeply in­volved with that and was work­ing with the Palace to do dou­bles of the Queen’s outfits. They were in­cred­i­bly help­ful.

We knew what we were do­ing for the cer­e­monies was go­ing to be amaz­ing and we wanted it to be a com­plete sur­prise. It was a bit of a ‘phew mo­ment’ when it all worked. Great fun.

How did your in­ter­est in cos­tume and pup­pet de­sign be­gin?

I DID theatre de­sign at Cen­tral Saint Martins. It was set and cos­tume de­sign and all that side of things. I’ve gone on to work on so many films and TV shows and it’s an amaz­ing in­dus­try.

I’ve worked on a lot of cos­tume ef­fects and crea­ture ef­fects. It’s work­ing with the script and the day to day side of things. It’s also com­ing up with ideas and so­lu­tions to prob­lems. I like the chal­lenge of it. I find it fas­ci­nat­ing.

Have you clocked up a lot of air miles work­ing on film pro­jects like Star Wars VII The Force Awak­ens, X-Men First Class and Harry Pot­ter and The Philoso­pher’s Stone?

I’VE trav­elled a lot for my work. It’s very ex­cit­ing. I’ve been to Amer­ica and Dubai, places like that, but you nor­mally end up work­ing in some in­dus­trial area or a re­tail park for very long hours.

There are quite com­plex tech­niques we use in pup­pets. It’s a de­vel­op­ing science. We’ve been us­ing 3D print­ing a lot lately and cut­ting edge tech­niques, but some­times it is the most sim­ple jobs that are the most com­pli­cated and take the most work.

Are you a nat­u­ral prob­lem-solver?

I LOVE a chal­lenge and work­ing out how to make an idea work. I’ll keep think­ing of it while I’m pot­ter­ing around the house and, as I’m load­ing the dish­washer or some­thing, I’ll sud­denly think ‘That’s how we can do it.’

Are you sur­rounded by any of your cre­ations at work?

(LAUGHS). There’d be no space to do any­thing if I was sur­rounded by funny crea­tures and pup­pets. There’s sim­ply no room in my work­shop. It’s al­ways full with the lat­est project I’m work­ing on.

You’re about to make a lot of young­sters happy with the first tour of Bing Live! How did it come about?

I’VE worked on a lot of pre-school shows like In The Night Gar­den, Zingzil­las and Bing. The char­ac­ters are very strong on the CBee­bies show and the chal­lenge is try­ing to cre­ate some­thing that is still the bunny Bing that ev­ery­one knows and loves.

We did some work­shops and tri­als last year with chil­dren and looked at the size of the pup­pets. You have to be able to see the char­ac­ters on the stage, but you don’t want them loom­ing or too big and scary. We’ve worked hard to get them just right and they are very tac­tile and friendly as well.

How is Os­car-win­ning ac­tor Mark Ry­lance in­volved in Bing?

MARK RY­LANCE is the voice of a char­ac­ter called Flop on the TV show and is fan­tas­tic. He is such an amaz­ing theatre ac­tor and it is go­ing to be great to have a Flop in the theatre.

(Laughs) It’s just a shame we are not go­ing to Shake­speare’s Globe, where he used to be artis­tic direc­tor. We should try and push for that one next time.

What’s the best part of your job?

IT’S an ex­tra­or­di­nary thing when you cre­ate some­thing and you then see it come to life on TV or film. You go ‘wow’ that was smash­ing. I love work­ing on pre-school pro­grammes and cre­at­ing a life­time of mem­o­ries for chil­dren. It’s so spe­cial. When you are walk­ing down a road and you see a child clutch­ing a toy of a char­ac­ter that you have helped to cre­ate, it’s a won­der­ful feel­ing.

Grow­ing up, what did you watch your­self?

JACKANORY and Blue Peter, but I re­mem­ber the best time on TV used to be just be­fore the Six O’Clock News when they would show pro­grammes like The Herbs, The Clangers and The Magic Round­about. Ev­ery­one would rush home to watch them... in­clud­ing the adults. The pre­miere UK tour of Bing Live! runs from June. Go to for ticket de­tails.

Cre­at­ing mem­o­ries for chil­dren is one of the best parts of Tahra’s job

For the TV show Os­car-win­ner Mark Ry­lance, in­set, pro­vides the voice of Flop, above, one of Bing’s animal friends

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