The Costumes of Macbeth

So much work goes into putting on any production.  I was only involved in Macbeth for the past few weeks and it took over my life.  For the production team who have been involved since the inception of this project I imagine it’s taken up a huge part of this year.

The show was visually beautiful with a stark, clean aesthetic. I worked with a team of sewers, lead by costume designer Sara Ben-Abdallah, and made some of the garments she created.

Macduff vs Macbeth

Fight scene between Macduff and Macbeth – image by John Matthews

The pleats, that I spent quite a bit of time stressing over, looked great in the final pieces.

. . .

Making Pleats

I was recently asked to make pleats for a costume.  I had no clue how to do this so I tried watching instructional videos on youtube.  Eventually I could make pleat-like things but not something good enough for the costume.   Marty has never used a sewing machine before and never made pleats.  He watched one video on youtube and from that he was able to sew pleats.  He’s amazing!

Pleats and Pleater

Pleats and Pleater

He didn’t use a fork, like they did in the video.  Instead he made himself a plastic pleater using a badge from a linux conference.

Once he made the pleats, I attempted to iron them.  The material was more than 1 metre long and they were really hard to iron, but in the end I got the panels I need to insert into my costumes.

Ironed Pleats

Ironed Pleats


permalink | Costume, Theatre | No Comments »

October 11th, 2016
. . .

Improv Stories

We were playing a game that involves one person trying to tell a story, while their partner prompts them with random words that they have to incorporate into that story.  It was my first ever improv exercise and I was paired with the teacher.  He started his story and the first word I gave him was “rain”.  He skillfully told a story but after a while he stopped and said to me “you really should provide words quicker”.  I was puzzled as he had never used my word in the story and I was only supposed to provide a new word when the old one was used.  Turns out he thought I said “ring”.  I forget sometimes that my accent is uncommon and that in Northern Ireland “rain” could sound as if it has two syllables and not the one the rest of the world claims it has.

permalink | Acting, Improv | No Comments »

October 4th, 2016
. . .

Improv Workshops

I have been attending weekly improv workshops, run by Tokyo Comedy Store, since I got back to Japan in August.  Improv is not something I find easy.  Performing, without preparation, can feel horrifying.  I do enjoy some of the games, and the people who attend are incredibly helpful and welcoming, but I think it’s going to take me a while to get used to the concept.

permalink | Acting, Improv | No Comments »

October 3rd, 2016
. . .

The Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heaven’s embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light;
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

— W. B. Yeats

permalink | Language | No Comments »

October 2nd, 2016
. . .

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Marty is going to be on stage for the first time in years.  He has a small part in Tokyo International Players production of Macbeth, which opens on October 13th.  I will be helping out with costumes and wardrobe, so hopefully I’ll still get a chance to watch the play.

I did see a scene, between Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, acted out last night at the Improvazilla Mainstage Show and it was excellent.

Marty, about to fight with a big stick.

Marty, at rehearsal, about to fight with a big stick.

. . .

100th Book

I read my hundredth book of the year last week.  Last year I saw this milestone coming and picked what I thought was an appropriate book, but there was no planning this year.

As The Beast Sleeps, is a play by Northern Irish playwright Gary Mitchell.  I didn’t find it easy to read.  Not because of the writing or the language, which is wonderfully authentic, but because the play is set in loyalist North Belfast after the peace process.  The play deals with brutal in-fighting between members of the loyalist paramilitaries as they struggle to deal with the changing environment in Northern Ireland.

Living in Japan I can often forget about Northern Irish culture.  I don’t dwell on certain aspects of my childhood, but this play brought back memories of living in North Belfast, some of which I had buried.

permalink | Life | No Comments »

September 30th, 2016
. . .

Quick Change

My friend, Christiane Brew, was playing the part of “Her Ladyship” in The Dresser.  She had the quickest costume change in the show, when she had 5 and half minutes to get from her King Lear character of Cordelia back to her civilian 1940s costume.  She decided to record the change, so that people could see what goes on back stage.  You get to see me frown a lot, but the change went smoothly and she made her cue.

. . .

Acting Problems

I messed up badly in rehearsal tonight.  I was singing a love song.  It’s a poignant song about lovers who thought that they would be better apart, but have come to the conclusion that they want to be together.  It doesn’t work if you burst out laughing when your scene partner looks at you.  We didn’t manage any type of sincere love, hopefully it will go better next time.


permalink | Acting | No Comments »

September 26th, 2016
. . .

More Costume Work

The Dresser opened last night at Black Stripe Theater. The play, by Ronald Harwood, tells the story of an aging actor’s personal assistant, who is struggling to keep the actor’s life together.  I have been responsible for costumes and wardrobe, which does mean I get to be the dresser at The Dresser.

It’s been a lot of work for everyone involved, but worth it, given how well the show went last night.  It’s the first time I’ve been a lead costumer and I was concerned about my fairly basic sewing skills.  I still get scared every time I have to cut fabric, sewing can mostly be undone, but cutting is permanent.  I was also surprised that I got nervous before the show.  I know that always happens when I have to perform, but it never occurred to me that being responsible for how actors looked would also feel like a type of performance.  Thankfully they all looked good and the costume changes happened as expected.

I enjoyed making the hats and head dresses.  My favourite is the wild flower crown, which looks surprisingly good for something made from materials bought from my local 100 円 ($1) store.

Fantastically Dressed In Wild Flowers

Fantastically Dressed In Wild Flowers

. . .