Lights… camera… costume!

Being a costume designer is no easy task, not only do you need to take into account the script but the director’s vision and the actor’s preferences are also important. Third year art student Eve Kershaw has spent six weeks of hard work on the costumes for the NUTS production of Little Shop of Horrors. She explains her process to reach the finished performance we see on stage.

First she reads through the script searching particularly for stage directions which give clear costume instructions, but also picking out themes to inspire costume choices. Then she attends the script’s read through where actors are measured. Costume sourcing begins immediately, for Little Shop of Horrors characters include the elegantly dressed Audrey, Seymour (an adorable shop assistant) and Orin Scrivello (a biker dentist). Each of which presents their own challenges for the costume designer.

The film was used as a reference point to inspire many of the costumes. This is particularly clear with the character of Seymour, who dressed in beige trousers, a diamond vest, long sleeved shirt, tie and thick lens-less glasses could have walked straight out of the film set.

“Process to reach the finished performance we see on stage

Kershaw believes it’s important for the costumes to reflect the personality of the character wearing them. Seymour shows this by retaining the same outfit throughout whilst the rest of the cast become ever more glamorous, in order to show his rejection of material goods. Audrey’s costume also subtly reflects her character as her elegant black dress is paired with leopard print scarves and shoes instead of floral prints to imply a lower status past.

Audrey is particularly challenging to dress, as her heels can’t be high, less they cause accidents or discomfort. The script also calls for a quick change. Eve’s advice on a successful quick change in the theatre is to choose clothes with Velcro or in this case slip on, instead of zips or more complicated fastenings. This is one of the testing elements of the theatre, however Kershaw assures us of the advantages of the theatre over film, such as the clothes do not to be constructed well because there are no close ups. They do, however, need to be easily fixable as split seams and popped buttons are everyday realities of the theatre.

“The film was used as a reference point to inspire many of the costumes”

For Little Shop of Horrors the costumes come from a range of sources – the favourites being Primark, eBay and charity shops – which also includes items from the actors own wardrobes. For this performance the six chorus girls are dressed in long blue and green dresses sourced from eBay. Kershaw would have had these all emerald green to tie in with the play’s plant theme but due to stock issues was forced to choose three blue and three green dresses. Another problem was budget which at £100 is limiting, otherwise Kershaw would have liked an underskirt to give the dresses more shape. Hair and skin colour of the actors are also important factors in the dress choice. The actor’s preference held much gravity for the second costume, where each girl wore a sequined dress, the shape of which they had chosen. The result is spectacular and formulates Kershaw’s favourite part of the job – seeing everything come together on the stage. It’s definitely true to say that a play would not be as good without the costumes.

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