Year 12 major play: the Trojan women
The photos on stage where taken during a dress rehearsal so some of them where not complete at that stage. The other photos were taken by me and have a few the costumes complete but not all of them.
This was originally written as a production report so this is written as though the play has been read and understood by the audience of this piece of writing, I’ve tried to modify it a little. This play had costumes that varied hugely because the message the director and I wanted to get across the message that this could be set at any time in any place even though the play itself is ancient. At the same time as doing all of these costumes I was also working on afew small projects and the garments I had go down a fashion runway a few weeks later.
For this production I worked as costume designer. The role of a costume designer in the theatre is to give the audience a visual explanation of each character, to help support the story with visual effects and to make each character look good.
The play, the Trojan women is one of the world’s greatest antiwar plays, it explores the worst of human behaviour, that still exists and is relevant in today’s society, the effects of war. There are reoccurring themes and messages in this play, the main reoccurring message in this play is that war is bad.
The process I used as costume designer was, after the castings I wrote down who would be playing each character and then took their measurements. I then read through the play and formed ideas about each of the characters, from these ideas I came up with rough sketches as to what I wanted each of the characters to look like, keeping in mind the look and shape of the actor playing these parts. I then shared my ideas with the director of the play and reworked things with his advice. We had some production meetings that enabled the cast to collaborate effectively together, making sure, that things such as hair and makeup would look effective with the costumes and that the lights would bring out the best of the costumes.
I had to work particularly closely with Amelia, the hair and makeup artist, so that our ideas would complement each other’s. Due to the fact that there were so many actors in the play I had to delegate some of the work and trust that the people I delegated the work would do what I wanted.
I made, around about half of the costumes from scratch, using my abilities as a seamstress to do this as I made the costumes I took progress photos of the outfits, I also adapted a few items from the costume room, and sourced the remaining costumes with the help of people I had delegated work to. Each time I had completed a costume I would show it to the director in order to get approval and then move on to the next costume.
During this process I put together a small folio with bits and pieces of work from throughout the process although a lot of it didn’t get updated as I didn’t have quit enough time.
I had to check each costume would function correctly and make alterations if necessary. When organising the costumes I set up two clothes racks in the costume room, one for male actors and the other for females; I strategically placed each on opposite sides of the room with a dividing wall between, in-case of any quick changes. Every costume was labelled; with the name of the character, in order for them to be retrieved quickly.
Each character’s costume was made to reflect their character with an in-depth portrayal of the character, an example of this would be the costume I made for Hecuba, who was supposed to be the queen of Troy, I chose to make her costume in white to show that she was of pure and royal family, I hand painted her dress to look like crumbling marble, this was to symbolize that Hecuba is what makes the kingdom of Troy that is crumbling and falling apart; also on her costume I used food colouring to create the effect of blood, this was to show the amount of bloodshed and the horrors of the ten years of Trojan war.
Cassandras dress was in a white satin similar to that of Hecuba’s dress to show that these characters are related. Cassandra’s dress had hand painted flames on it on the batwing like piece of material on each side, the flames are to suggest Cassandra has become slightly corrupt, it is also in reference to the play where Cassandra often has something to do with fire therefore I decided to make it her theme. The dress itself was white to suggest she is innocent; it is floor length with long sleeves and a high neckline that has chiffon draped over the top half. This dress is designed to resemble white robes as there is a direct reference in the play to Cassandra wearing white robes and also she was supposed to be a priestess. The flames being so full of red contrast heavily with her white dress to suggest to the audience before the war she was innocent but now she is not so.
There were many changes made from the original ideas, an example of this is that the director originally wanted Helen of Troy on a podium, so I designed her dress initially for this purpose, but then, when our director decided that this would be both a safety hazard as well as impractical, he changed his mind which in turn meant I had to change the dress design and materials; it needed to practical allowing for a lot of movement and to be able to withstand the character being thrown on to the stage, so I decided to make the dress from a stretch fabric, which would enable for the actor to be able to move freely and still remain looking glamorous. I chose to dress Helen in red to suggest she is far from innocent and to make a statement about her character as well as to look good.
Astyanax’s costume, was a toga, which is an ancient Greek item of clothing; in order to make this more authentic, I needed to silk screen the bottom of the toga with an Ancient Greek style pattern. I chose a toga for two reasons firstly it is white and the colour white suggests and shows that he is just an innocent young child. secondly he was dressed in a toga as I felt this was the closest item of clothing possible to ancient Trojan clothing style, as there is no record to the style of ancient Trojan clothing. I had to make 3 copies of the toga, but only two were used, because the director’s original idea was to have a dummy thrown from the cat walk to create a dramatic death effect on stage but then he decided to get rid of this idea and I had already made 3 togas, so one was used for when he was supposed to be alive and on stage the other was done up with red food colouring to look like it was covered in blood for when he was brought back on stage dead.
The characters of Athena and Poseidon shared a common theme of the colour gold, this was used to make them look more god like and powerful. Athena’s dress has a 1920’s theme to it that is elegant and helps support the fact she is a goddess of wisdom through its sophistication. Athena’s dress was the only costume I made a calico pattern for before making the costume as I wanted it to look exact to my design idea. There was a lot of detail that went into Athena’s dress on the back, there was some golden slightly trailing net and there was a lot of hand beading and gathering that went around the low back. I also created her a short fur shall to finish the look and unfortunately in the play she doesn’t remove the shall. Poseidon’s suit jacket was adapted from just a plain blue jacket to a jacket with a lot of gold and his white pants with gold were sourced by one of the people I delegated work to. I chose for Poseidon to look a bit like a high up member of a yacht club to reflect the fact Poseidon is supposed to be the god of the sea.
The chorus were dressed in a similar style to that of which existed in Kabul when the Taliban took over and the Russians left. This style included head scarfs and chardri’s as well as a style that they had before the Taliban which was fairly similar to what people wear every day. The women being in this style was to give the play a new element showing this could be anywhere in the world at any time because unfortunately events like shown in the play still occur, even though the play was set in ancient Greece.
Andromache’s costume was supposed to have the look of once being a beautiful gown but after ten years of war, being ripped and destroyed. I chose for Andromache to look like this because her character appeared to be a more conservative and respectful version of Helen and is considered to be a trophy bride. Keeping this in mind when I designed Andromache’s costume I gave it a low back as opposed to Helens dress which had a low front. I also chose to make Andromache’s dress in a plain light purple because it seemed to be a big contrast to Helen’s bright sparkling red dress.
Being costume designer for this play was a unique and challenging experience. If I had to do this again I think I would have started work slightly earlier and I would have put together a better folio to show my workings and I would organise my time better as I spent loads of time on some outfits and only a little on others. Overall though I was happy with how costumes turned out and everything worked really well in the end.