Sunday, 5 October 2014

Life is a Cabaret Part 1

I was first asked by Bruiser Theatre Company to be Costume Designer and Supervisor on their production of 'Cabaret' back in May.  It was to be my first experience designing for theatre, working with director Lisa May.  I had celebrated a big 40th birthday in April, and I am always up for new adventures and challenges.

The celluloid story of Cabaret is famously told by Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles, in Bob Fosse's 1972 direction.  Leading us underground and into a seedy, sexy world of broken down colourful characters, its where many of us get our first introduction into the sights and songs of the show.

Joel Grey sings 'Willkommen'
This blog is all about the Cabaret costume journey, and will be in 3 parts, due to the immense number of styles that were designed and produced.  I will also be posting lots of other photos from the journey on my facebook site  Give me a LIKE when you are there to get lots of updates!
If you see a photograph not credited, please email me with the details and I will give credit where it is due.
As early as May there were promotional marketing posters to be photographed.  These demanded being very creative with time, money and resources.  Turned out, 99% of the costume supplied for the photo shoot came from my own closet! Perhaps there is a little of Sally Bowles in me..
I teach Level 3 BTEC Costume at Belfast Metropolitan College BMET and my students had just completed their 32 week course.  The timing of this show gave them a great opportunity to be involved and increase their skills and make contacts within the industry.  From the course we had Janine, Julie-Ann, Lisa and Alex.  With Erica, Marc, Sophie and Claire contacting me directly via fairs, facebook and website.  Nuala came on board from Bruiser, she works at the best vintage and retro store in town The Rusty Zip, and conquered her fear of the sewing machine.  Each intern has their own costume story to tell and are the costume crew of the future.
Its all about networking!
First week in July saw the move in to the MAC Theatre, Belfast.  This was to become home from home until mid September.
The wardrobe room in the MAC transformed into a design and making studio.
Kerri Quinn a local actress from Belfast was cast as Sally Bowles.  It was great fun designing her costumes as the show allowed a lot of freedom.

This design was for Sallys's introduction into the show.  I wanted her first appearance to be strong, wild and spectacular.  The fringed dress was a 'find' and the headpiece was made by my costume student Eileen Curran and was featured in a lot of online and printed press. 

Sally maintains strong colours and sparkly fabrics with movement at the start of Act 1, but as she meets Cliff,  her colours soften, and her vunerability begins to reveal.
Costume sketch for 'Don't Tell Mama'. 
Claire meticulously hand sews on 10 metres of pink marabou trim.  The cream tutu was from Hell Bunny, I dressed it on the mannequin from the bust instead of the waist and it instantly took shape.  A pink sequinned shawl was added to the top for colour, movement and sparkle.

 Kerri in full swing in the 'Don't Tell Mama' number.
Image : Neil Harrison Photography
My design sketch for 'Mein Herr'.  There are always a few changes to be made from the sketch to the final costume.  Black hose with a red back seam, and shoes soled in red all were essential design details. The top hat was original silk 1930's, but later was replaced with a bowler.
The bodice for Sally's Mein Herr costume started life as a sparkly dress with a centre frilly section.  Once the frills were removed we had to join the bodice and skirt back again.  It was then fitted on Kerri and the pant shape drawn in, cut and sewn.  Because the dress was already boned and lined, this was the best way to produce this design. 
A large percentage of the costumes had been sourced from vintage and charity stores and then customised.  This involves a lot of creative thinking, to see a garment for what it could become, rather than how it already exists. 

Kerri looking perfectly marvellous as Sally Bowles in Mein Herr.
Kerri had a lot of costumes and they all had stories to be told.  Choreographer Sarah Johnson had Kerri jumping off tables, climbing over chairs, lying on the ground all within one scene to the dancing piano keys of musical director Matthew Reeve.  Costume has to react to all of this.

Costume sketch for 'Cabaret'
£20 mans tuxedo jacket from British Heart Foundation.  I went out that lunchtime, wanting to find this jacket, and I found it! It was exactly the style I needed to work on.
Front view of the waistcoat. Looking a lot more feminine.
Side view of the waistcoat.  Sides bound in satin.
Backless waistcoat, completed with suspender strap.
£8 Skirt from Oxfam Vintage cut into a pair of trousers. 
'Cabaret' .  A turban with brooch completes the costume.
 Image Neil Harrison photography.
In full swing at Cabaret Costume HQ with Gemma and my right hand, left handed woman, Claire Lilley, who deserves a round of applause!
Read a review...  by clicking on the link.  Feel Willkommen to leave a comment below if you enjoyed the show!
Till Act 2, and on with the show.

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