Costume Design: CHARLIE CRIDLAN
In creation we explored many subject matters; the agency, visibility, and invisibility of women in society through history, how society shapes, moulds, represses women. The characters represented are individually Grace, Nina, Habiba, collectively THEM – speaking of everywoman. I wanted these themes to be visually represented somehow in the lines of the costumes.
To inspire shape, we looked at how we women use clothes to be visible / fit in /shape / hide. We studied the lines and shapes of women’s clothing across millennia images of women as suffragettes, Geisha, Samurai. From the roaring 20’s to contemporary hip hop, fashion, dance battles . . . . there are nods to many of these shapes in my costume design. Because the characters are at different stages of their lives each has a different hem length to their costume, an historical fashion ‘nod’ to woman as; child / young woman/ woman. Because the subject matter is timeless, I drew a timeless quality to the costume shapes. I proposed abstract costumes which appear at once as clothing lines we recognise whilst also as armour, kimono, wings.
Colour-wise, I wanted the women in THEM to be visible, celebratory, confident, bold, playing against subject matter which could have dictated colour as hiding, shame, washed out. Colour was also a practical consideration as we were performing against a black backdrop, so I was careful to avoid black in the costumes.
Artist Hannah Buckman produced beautiful bold colourful drawings of the original R&D. The dancers were masked because it was Covid. For me, there was huge power and resonance in the image of the masked face with hand at throat for all the reasons we were making the work. I felt Hannah’s drawings had great energy, marks made by a woman of women. I felt it important to include these building collective, creative, female energy into the work representing us all. I proposed we cut costumes from fabric I’d design using Hannah’s drawings.
Abstracted, the lines and colours appear as fragments of energy on the bodies of the dancers, engraved for posterity. In places I have used whole sections of the image so that the audience can see more of the original. I chose to print on lightweight fabrics which move beautifully intending the print to be bright on the silk of Grace’s costume and more subtle on georgette used for Nina’s costume, giving the costume different transparencies reflecting the visibility of the women we are representing.
I wanted the costumes to fit the dancer’s body in places and to be an extension of the movement in others, much thought went into the amount of fabric we used and shapes we cut. I worked closely with costumier Katy Adeney who expertly understands pattern and fabric. There is such generosity of movement in the clothes, which is beautiful to see performed.
I made the costumes vivid and bright knowing light would alter the colours according to the spectrum in the lighting gel, making them appear and disappear against black. We chose black chairs for the only set in the piece so at times the women appear to float in space. I am delighted at how Lighting Designer, Chloe Kenward has used colour to great effect, working bold colourwashes and sharp pixel beams beautifully to denote atmospheres.
During technical rehearsal, immersed in the combination of movement, costume, lighting, the sound world by Char Bickley seeing this piece achieve intensely beautiful stage pictures and knowing the weight of the subject matter, I found myself acutely moved. I reflected and rejoiced in THEM as a true collaboration of art forms touching on powerful themes which resonate with us all daily.