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The Eight Moon Journey


Brecht had a number of ways of presenting the costumes of the characters in his play. Of course these depended upon the role of the character within an individual play and what the gest of a particular scene was. In a production of ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’ the aristocrats were dressed in white gloves with long pointed nails that that they held loosely in the air. For Brecht this Gestic use of costume emphasised the impracticality and useless nature of the aristocracy. However, in ‘The Mother’ Helene Weigel’s costume went through a laborious process of dying in order to get the exact shade of blue required to show realistically the working nature of her character, a precision that would not have been out of place in naturalistic theatre.

So, costume could either be exaggerated or realistic dependant upon how the audience was to view those characters. What we will be looking for is something between the two.

All of the actors, bar the actor playing Ralph Clark, play a convict and an officer. Therefore all of my actors will wear a convict costume as their basic costume. These will consist of trousers or breeches and a shirt for the men and a dress for the women. The intention will be the styling of the costume will be appropriate to the period. This is quite important as, with such a minimalistic stage, the only real suggestion of period will be the costume. The colours will be whites, creams and maybe browns. But they will look well worn, dirty and used, giving it that sense of selective realism.

When the actors are required to play an officer they will simply don a military coat over their convict costume, suggesting they are playing a different character. The actors will then be required to convey the different character through their use of voice and gesture and a changed physicality. The officer jackets themselves will hopefully match the general design and colour of the historical period militarily, but may not look realistic. As long as they denote a sense of rank - that is what is most important. If there is a sense that these costumes are worn and falling into disrepair, that may serve the production well also. I am sure that the budget will not stretch to buying, hiring or making jackets that look new, so we will use this to our advantage. I would also like the actors to wear grey wigs appropriate to that period, but, again, if that cannot happen it isn’t crucial

The Final Costume

This was an area that was in the balance for a long time. Being an amateur company are resources are limited and thus hiring, buying or making can all create their own problems. In my ignorance of what exists in our wardrobe I didn’t realise that we didn’t have the jackets I wanted. I mulled over a multitude of alternative options and really felt it difficult to go with any other option than the jackets.

Luckily for me, the powers that be have really backed me as a director in this area and we have been able to hire some jackets. It’s a serious consideration for an amateur company working next to one of the major theatres in the midlands – every show has to be budgeted and artistic needs balanced against financial reality. Thus I know that the extra money given to me could affect another part of our season. Thus we are burdened with a need to sell tickets to restore the equilibrium!

So what we now have is the cast all wear their convict costumes made up of breeches and shirts for the men and varying skirts and dresses for the women and all with bare feet. The only exception is Matt, who plays Ralph, who wears a full military uniform, with waistcoat and shoes, thus denoting his difference.

When the cast become officers they wear a jacket and wig as I envisaged. The jackets are fantastic – the only thing they don’t do is denote rank but that is not as important as I first thought. We do have the clear difference between the naval officers and marines which is important.

The only other important element of costume is for ‘Backstage’. Here we have gone with the idea that the characters in turn only have a simple item of costume to signify their character in ‘The Recruiting Officer’, as if the whole thing has been cobbled together, rather than the stage directions requiring costume changes and make-up.

All that’s left is for the actors to project the gest of the character through the jacket! Ginney, our costume designer has done a wonderful job.

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