Archives For Costumes and set

The Wheelie Set

Barbara —  March 28, 2014 — Leave a comment
The whole set - everything else is on wheels!

The whole set – everything else is on wheels!

So you have a big cast and a play with LOADS of different locations – any one of which would be a challenge to stage. I directed Terry Pratchett’s ‘Wyrd Sisters’ a few years back and had just that scenario. I’ve said it before .. I will do anything to avoid a scene change. That moment when people dressed in black come on and remove things and/or add things just kills it for me. So we have ‘the blasted heath’, a road somewhere, a theatre, Nanny Ogg’s kitchen, a dungeon with instruments of torure, the throne room, a garden/wood and many other locations that are only required for an odd minute here and there. Of course you’re not going to build up each location and remove it afterwards – it would take all night. But how can you do it quickly, convincingly and creatively? Continue Reading…

The set (and costumes/lights) for 'After Juliet'. by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, moody lights. Beautiful.

The set (and costumes/lights) for ‘After Juliet’. by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, moody lights. Beautiful.

This was a fantastic set to work on. After Juliet is a moody, brooding beast of a one act play set just after the deaths of Romeo and Juliet. It deals with the anger, pain and frustration of Romeo and Juliet’s family and friends as they wallow in the aftermath of the tragedy. It’s dark, hot, stuffy, moody and dramatic. The set, costumes and lighting had to reflect that. It is also set within the homes of various families and friends and also, crucially, in a central meeting place – a place for romance, friendship and fighting. We wanted a multipurpose set where homes were overlooking the meeting place – the plaza. We wanted different levels, colours, hiding places, narrow alleyways. We absolutely did not want a single set change to interrupt the action (actually, I never do). Enter scaffolding towers. Continue Reading…

Dramatic Dress Time

Barbara —  March 27, 2014 — Leave a comment
Don't skimp on costumes - they matter!

Don’t skimp on costumes – they matter!

This is my idea of a dramatic dress! I just love to take an existing plain dress and make something completely different and rather unusual out of it. I confess, I’m not much good making clothes from patterns. In fact, that’s an understatement – I’m a non-starter. But if I have an item of clothing to begin with I can happily cut, sew, glue, spray and staple my way to something that would look fab on stage. This one rook me ages, but I loved it.

A long black dress with big puffy short sleeves (ball gown)
A variety of patterned red material
Mixed gold / red braid
Red velevt for ‘overdress / robe’
Gold and copper 3D fabric paint
Gold chains and jewellery

To cover the arms I used a pair of red tights worn as a top (cut a hole in the gusset – brilliant for punky looks)

To get the effect on the front of the dress I cut out pieces of red material and glued or sewed them to the dress. The braid weaved its way in-between the patches. The result was rather stunning and there wasn’t much of the black dress showing at the front. The overdress/robe added an extra layer of richness to the outfit and meant I didn’t have to cover the whole of the dress with the red material.
I left the sleeves black, but lined the edges with the copper and gold 3D paint.
The chains and jewellery added more glitz to and already scene-stealing costume.
One of my favourites without a doubt.

Yes, it is for hire!

Everything on the set has purpose ..

Everything on the set has purpose ..

There’s a ‘dramatic principle’ that Chekhov famously illustrated about what you should and should not have on set (or in your play if you’re writing). He said something along the lines of ‘don’t put a loaded gun on stage unless you intend it to go off’ or ‘don’t mention there’s a gun hanging on the wall in Act I unless you intend it to go off in Act III’ (you’ll find many variations if you search for ‘Chekhov’s gun’). His point being that you should not raise the expectations of the audience by drawing attention to an item that actually has no purpose or relevance to the plot. Interesting. I have read about this a few times and the interpretation of his words always comes out slightly differently. So, what should you put on your set and what should you leave out? Continue Reading…

Me and my set

Barbara —  February 16, 2014 — 4 Comments
If your cast are acting in a space like this you really need it weeks ahead! James & the Giant Peach.

If your cast are acting in a space like this you really need it weeks ahead! James & the Giant Peach.Peach design by Jim Rolt.

I have a very intimate relationship with my set when I’m directing a show. Very, very intimate and important. The set is something that starts to take shape in my mind long before the cast have appeared. As I read the script I start to play around with ideas. How will it look? What will it feel like? How can I create the required atmosphere? What do I actually need on stage? What would I like to have? And .. very importantly for me .. how can I avoid scene changes? (See Elegant Scene Changes for my feelings about scene changes). I start my design right there and it evolves with the production. There are lots of different ways to use to the stage – this is just my process, my take on it. My relationship with my set. Continue Reading…

the set, costumes and a dash of lighting for 'After Juliet' by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, different levels to act on, moody lights. Loved it!

The set, costumes and a dash of lighting for ‘After Juliet’ by Sharman Macdonald. Rich colours and fabrics, ‘punk- Elizabethan’ style costumes, a plaza, scaffolding towwers to create different levels, moody lights. Loved it!

Also in this series:
Offbeat Directing 1: The Vision Quest
Offbeat Directing 2: Understanding the Script
Offbeat Directing 3: Dreaming and Planning
Offbeat Directing 4: What Does the Director Do?
Offbeat Directing 5: Trial by Audition
Offbeat Directing 6: The First Awkward Read Through
Offbeat Directing 7a: Who Does What?
Offbeat Directing 7b: Early Rehearsals and Cunning Plans

‘What team?’ I hear you say. Quite so. Chances are it’s just you and your best friend. But let’s suppose for the sake of this post that you do have access to people who will design for you – or at least be instrumental in getting your designs on stage in some form. Part of my ‘visioning’ period (that’s the never-ending period) involves visualising the design of the show in every way conceivable – the set, props, lighting, sfx, sound, costumes, hair & make-up. So, as soon as you can get together with each member of your team and talk through what you want. Show them your diagrams, sketches, design boards, fabric samples – anything at all you have collected whilst dreaming away! Try and find a way to make your design ideas a reality. I tend to be of the opinion that if my designer says ‘it can’t be done’ then I’m probably talking to the wrong person (although I do compromise when I really, really have to). Continue Reading…


The set for Beauty & the Beast used 3 revolves!

Confession: I HATE scene changes. That moment when everything comes to a standstill, the magic disappears, the lights go dim and people in black clothes start whoosing around the stage moving bits of the set on and off. I hate it even more if the tabs (curtains) are closed to disguise the event, cutting the audience out altogther (as if we don’t know what’s going on). Then, after the scene change break, it starts up again and we try to pick up the thread. I will do almost anything to avoid that scenario – I will not have scene changes if I’m directing. I will not have people in black infiltrating the production…. Continue Reading…

I’ve just had a great time sorting through all the Bugsy photos and 1920s style photos that I collected when we did our own production of Bugsy Malone a few years back. We had so much fun doing that show. In fact, there’s nothing like a musical with a live band, dancing, singing, a great set and glitzy costumes to really create that amazing feelgood factor you get in theatre. I think we had a 9-piece band, a fantastic set (see the board!), a great choreographer, excellent singers and .. I had a brilliant time directing. I do remember that when it came to sorting out the costumes though we ran into problems. I asked locally (we had a large drama store serving the county with costumes for youth groups and schools), and they politely refused to costume the show (that really took me by surprise). Splurge, of course, is the problem! No one wants their costumes splurged and how can you do Bugsy without the mess? I looked around online and yes, there were places that would supply costumes but they were WAY out of my budget and comfort zone. We had a big cast – of course we did, you can’t do the show without! Also, I wanted really good costumes – boas, beads, sequins, glamour, fringed dresses – everything! The choeographer went to the West End to see Chicago and came back with large ostrich feather fans on the agenda. So, we decided that Offbeat Theatre (run by myself & my partner Jim), would costume the show … (yes that did include large ostrich feather fans) and Jim would make the splurge guns that Offbeat would finance. So, over the months that folowed we made costumes and bought 1920s style everything I could find on Ebay! Well, to be honest I didn’t actually make any costumes – I’m not safe with a pattern and a pairs of scissors, but I knew someone who could and did. In the end we had a huge amount of costumes and an enormous bill that we carefully ignored until it was all over. We had a tearful standing ovation (me and the choreographer – we were the tearful ones) on the last night and then it was all over. Continue Reading…