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Reflecting Historical Periods in Stage Costume

2013-12-8 19:56:11      点击:

Some designers and costumiers can replicate period dress down to the last bone in the corset, while others have a looser approach. Carl Bonn of costume makers Bonn and Mackenzie remarked that one of the first things he would ask a designer was to specify exactly what period the designer was striving to depict. Often the drawings would roughly suggest, say, the 1840s, but agreement would need to be made on whether this should be the early or late 1840s, so that the detail could be accurate and consistent.

Theatre costumes also have to allow for today's different body shapes and ways of moving, for a singer's breathing or a dancer's movement. The theatre is a contemporary art with a contemporary audience with a contemporary eye and must be of its time. So a designer does not create an authentic reconstruction of a historical dress but retains its essential attributes while reinterpreting it for today. Often only in retrospect can a production be seen as a creation of the period in which it is staged - by the way it reflects current fashion, its cut, the selected fabrics and trimmings, make-up and hair.

The integrated production is a 20th-century development. In the 19th century, costume and sets were devised by different craftsmen working independently. This didn't matter while the primary focus was on the performer and realism was the prevailing style, so sets and costumes blended.

The idea of visual unity and a production as a total concept was established in the early 1900s, and the director evolved to fuse the disparate elements - text, concept, performance, design, lighting - into a seamless whole. Sometimes a director imposes a 'house style' on a production or even an entire season - even though not all styles suit all actors. A famous example was a Jacobean Macbeth when the full breeches to below the knee plus the high-crowned brimmed hat made the leading actor look, in the words of one of his fellow actors, like one of Ken Dodd's Diddy Men.

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