Behind The Scenes with the Melbourne Theatre Co. Costume Designer
Noel Coward's HAY FEVER at The Melbourne Theatre Company
23 September 2017 - 1 November 2017
Esther Marie Hayes, the Melbourne Theatre Company's Costume Designer was definitely in her element when designing the costumes for Hay Fever. Her love of sequins and beading were in abundance on 1920’s costumes inspired.
Hay Fever, a Comic play written by Noel Coward in 1924, is now being re-produced by The Melbourne Theatre Company. The play is set in an English country house and spans over two days. You are introduced to the Bliss family and their various guests that come by to stay the night.
Hayes was tasked with dressing the fictional and very eccentric members of the Bliss Family; a novelist father, retired stage actress mother, artist son, and bohemian daughter. As well as four guests and a maid.
The process begins with Hayes' researching concepts for each character, creating mood boards for their various looks, then sketching each concept. Items are either made in-house from scratch, sourced locally or internationally and even borrowed from their own MTC archives.
It is a very collaborative process, including feedback and advice from everyone from the set designer to the actors themselves to ensure the costumes are perfect for the show.
I also went behind the stage past the coloured doors of the stars' dressing rooms and into the wardrobe, which I was told by the wardrobe manager Keryn Ribbands, is much smaller than the one they have at the main headquarters.
A show set in the twenties is not a show set in the twenties without HATS! The show is full of stunning hats made by milliner Phillip Rhodes. My favourite one is not shown here, but is the fabulous lilac hat Judith Bliss is wearing as her gardening hat.
You'll notice some wigs in the images too, they are all created by wigmaker Jurga Celikiene. All made with human hair, and created especially for each character/actor.
Personally, coming from a fashion design background, it was so interesting to learn about design from a costume perspective. There are so many more things the designer needs to take into account, like, to name a few, understanding the personalities and styles of the characters, moveability; ensuring actors can act comfortably in the costumes, the costumes also have to be easy to take off for costume changes and positions of microphone packs also need to be considred.
The best part of this whole behind the scenes experience was seeing the costumes brought to life on the opening night of Hay Fever. I'll tell you about the show in a follow up post. In the meantime I recommend you trying to get a ticket to see it while you still can!