Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Snow White: Part Three

For Snow White I made 8 animal costumes in total - 3 squirrels, 3 rabbits, and 2 mice.  As with the rats in last year's Dick Whittington, these were worn by the Junior Chorus.

I made the heads in much the same way as I did last year.  I sculpted a mould over a wig block in bubblewrap, then covered it in tin foil and heated varaform over the top with a hair dryer.  I actually used the same mould for all three types of animal, just padded out the jawline a little more when doing the squirrels, and made the snout pointier for the mice.   The ears were also made from varaform and added afterwards.

The effect we were going for with these was much more 'cutesy' than the evil rats from last year, so this time I gave them big, innocent eyes, which were made from half a plastic bauble each, painted black on the inside.  The lights bouncing off the plastic give them a really lovely life-like effect.

Snouts and inner ears were done in felt, and the fur was attached with hot glue.  Whiskers were made from fishing line and the nostrils drawn on with a sharpie.

I don't have any good behind the scenes photos of the bodies to share here, as the best I have are photos from the fittings with the junior chorus, and it wouldn't be right to upload these.  I created the structure for each body out of fibre glass rods, and reinforced a lot of these with galvanised wire as I was ultra paranoid about them snapping during the run!  I haven't heard otherwise though, so I assume they all survived it.

Excuse my thumb! 
I draped a pattern for the fur over the top, sewed the fur pieces together, then slotted them over the fibreglass "cage" and used cable ties to secure them in place.  Each body closes at the back neck with a buckle.

I made the mice tails exactly the same way as the rat tails from the year before.  The squirrel tails were a much more time consuming beast.  I used a wired foam tube for the base of each one, then ruffled up many many yards of net and attached them in a spiral from the base to the tip.  I didn't trust hot glue to hold them in place by itself, so this meant a lot of awkward hand sewing with a curved needle.  Finally, the net was slashed and chopped into to rough up the look.  This photo shows one prior to roughing up.

Me wearing a squirrel frame, surrounded by the bodies of woodland animals...

Overall I was very happy with the heads, but in two minds about the bodies.  The fibre glass framework had the advantage of making them very lightweight and minimised how hot the performers got in them - but their rigidity wasn't ideal.  The choreography was fairly minimal but even so, I thought the performers did look a little awkward when trying to kneel down on stage.
The other, more widely used option for full body suits is to pattern the base in plastazote foam, although this obviously makes them a lot warmer to wear.  I'd like to give this a go in the future just so I can compare both styles, and in the meantime I'll continue to mull over other ways of creating the ideal animal suit that's both lightweight AND flexible.  One day I'll crack it!

In other news, I may be making a cow for Jack and the Beanstalk this year, so stay tuned for that!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Snow White: Part Two

Snow White closed at least a month and a half ago, so it's probably about time I share some more photos on here.  I've requested some promotional shots from the theatre, but in the mean time here are more of mine.  You'll have to excuse my poor quality camera phone, as well as the fact that the dresses all made for a man with a 40" chest are being shown on a size 8 female mannequin.

I made 5 costumes for the dame this year.  First up:

Nurse Nellie's "Basic" - or, the main costume she wears in Act 1

The 'waterfall' back drapery is my favourite part.

It's an all-in-one dress - even the crinoline is attached - with a CB zip for easy quick change.

Nellie's "Mirror" dress
A classic scene, in which Nurse Nellie and Muddles both end up hiding behind the Enchantress's magic mirror, and hilarity ensues as they each pretend to be her reflection.  Both wear an exaggerated version of the Enchantress's gown and headdress.

Me testing out the pointy shoulders!  They're made with a layer of eva foam underneath to support the shape.

Nellie's End of Act 1 Dressing Gown.

A simple shape but sewing on all that feather boa took a lot longer than I care to admit!

Nellie's "Hunting, or Riding" dress. 
Very much inspired by 18th century redingotes, but with smatterings of Victorian in the hoop shape and upper sleeves.  That's the fun thing about panto, it's all a big mash up!  Worn when Nellie et al go to the forest to look for Snow White.  

This is probably the one I'm most proud of as it had the most fiddly details. 

I was also pleased with all the pattern matching I managed on a quilted fabric.

And finally, Nellie's "Walkdown" - the name given in panto to every character's finale costume as they "walk down" and take their bow.

And the wig.  I didn't actually make the wig itself, but I did add the butterflies.

The other headdresses I made were the Enchantress's pale blue wedding henin, which you can see at the end of my previous post, and her main horned headdress, which she wears for most of the show.  I also made two humourous versions of this for Nellie and Muddles to wear in the mirror scene.

She wears interchangeable cowls with this; black and purple, depending on which dress she's wearing.  I was responsible for the structure of the headdress but the decorative details on this one were mostly the designer's (David Shields) handiwork.

Nurse Nellie's version, not quite finished here (needs more bling!).  The skeleton's pose was my idea...

Annoyingly this is the most complete photo I have of Muddle's version.  I was going for a jester look with the horns in this one.  You can still see the white of the fosshape base underneath.  Each base was blocked on a wig block padded to the size of the actor's head.
And I'll save the animals for another post as this one is getting a little unwieldy.

Also, excitingly, we've been nominated for best costume design in the Great British Panto Awards!  Well done to David Shields for designing, and the whole costume team for being a crazy awesome bunch!