If you haven’t seen Sleeping Beauty at Hull Truck Theatre yet, then you are certainly in for a treat. Anyone who has seen the show will look back on it and instantly remember the colour. Bright, beautiful colours that make your eyes widen with childlike excitement. I was so captivated by Sleeping Beauty that I was honoured to seize the opportunity to interview the Head of Wardrobe, Siân Thomas, who gave me a huge insight into how the characters’ costumes were created.
As I walked into the costume department there were mountains of boxes, filled with every costume accessory known to man. Pinned to the walls were the intricate designs and sketches of every Sleeping Beauty character. I was then introduced to Siân, who immediately offered me a piece of cake and a seat on an extremely comfortable leather couch, which perfectly matched the eclectic theme of the creative wardrobe. She was then kind enough to give me an insight into the manic process of how Sleeping Beauty’s characters came to life.
Q: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the costumes?
A: The set and lighting were designed by Ciaran Bagnall, and the costumes need to complement the style. Although we’re working with ‘Nannas’, we knew that we wanted to stay away from the ‘Shreddies grandma’ look and create something completely different. The team suggested that we instead look into the popular yarn-bombing craze, which attracted a more unique style of nanna. We looked into how these older women were dressing, and the creations some of them were making on social media were a huge inspiration for us. You can see that each character’s individual colour is taken from one of the rainbow colours found in these yarn-bombing patterns. We also liked to match the colours with the characters’ personalities and actors’ appearances. The yellow theme of the princess (Annabel Betts) signifies innocence, and the orange theme in Nanna Noonoo’s (Laurie Jamieson) costume was done to match his hair.
Q: What's it like working with the cast?
A: Most of the cast are from last year’s production (2014’s Cinderella) so I was already friendly with them. We knew what would suit and what they could work with. There is a lot of trust that goes into dressing someone in costume and it is far easier to work with actors you know.
Q: Were there any unexpected challenges?
A: We originally wanted Nanna Sandra (Nicholas Goode) to have a massive quiff. We played around with wigs, but they made him out to be too comical, so we instead thought about using hairspray, but this would have been too harsh on his hair considering the amount of shows we do… When Laurie first came to us he had no hair at all, the costume was designed around his prominent hair colour so we had to try and motivate his hair to grow in time for the show. Although Annabel Betts’ hair was black when she first met the design team, Nanna Janine was designed to have yellow tips in her hair. Sarah Clayton from Hair Majesty was a big help. She lifted all the dye out of Annabel’s hair, which was black, and then dip dyed it yellow for free.
Q: How long did it take to design and create the wardrobe for Sleeping Beauty?
A: It was a really hard process and it does take up your life. I was up until 10pm most nights searching through eBay, shopping for clothes. Even though we only had three weeks of rehearsal, the original designs start much earlier. The design process started in the summer, that’s when we first got together to talk about it. When I was at home I would use Pinterest to find items of clothing or styles that I thought would work well with characters; I’d create Pinterest boards and my colleagues could look through and add more to them. There were a lot of happy accidents when it came to designing and creating this wardrobe. Sometimes it came down to fate when you would find something in a shop, and once you see it on stage it’s all worth it. I love my job.
Sleeping Beauty is being shown at Hull Truck Theatre until Saturday 9 January. Impressively, it’s wonderful to remember that so many people got together to help knit and crochet clothing and set pieces. Siân was very enthusiastic about all of the support she received, saying “we had such help from the community, with all the knitting and crocheting that they did for us. Every one of the Nannas wears something knitted by someone in the community”. I strongly recommend everyone should go and have their own Sleeping Beauty experience this Christmas.
Author: Matt Nolan, @mattandhiscats