Saturday, 1 September 2012

Costumes for Turn of the Screw the Opera

Hello! My name is Yolanda Shamash, and I’m going to be taking over Megan’s blog for the next three days, whilst she guest blogs over on at my site, NotAllAboutBoys.

Just so you know a little about me, I’m a teenage blogger based in North London, with a keen interest in writing, politics and music. That’s basically all you need to know, so let’s get started!

This year, I was in a professional production of the Britten opera ‘’The Turn of the Screw’. For anyone not familiar with the opera, it’s about two children who live in an old country house with a governess and housekeeper, and it’s all about how the children become possessed by the ghosts of the ex-staff who worked at the house. In the show, I played the young girl, Flora- who gets possessed by the ghost of the old governess and goes mad.
Our production was all set in the 30s, and as ’The Turn of the Screw’ is known to be very typically British (which is partially why it’s so popular in European countries), we were in very school-like costumes, to exaggerate the extreme British-ness of the opera. You know the kind of thing- all pinafores and collars and trouser braces!

This is a photo from the second scene, ‘The Welcome’ - the first scene with the children. We (the kids) are wearing our pyjamas- a light blue flowery nightie for me, and a rather dashing set of light blue stripy PJs for Miles (played by the lovely Kaisun Raj). At this point in the show, the children appear very sweet, if a little naughty, so we look a tad scruffy- our socks all bunched up around our ankles, our un-ironed pyjamas, my hair down etc. This, I think, was meant to endear the audience, and also shows just how young the children are.

The second costume we had to wear was the childrens’ day clothes- for this Flora wore a pleated blue skirt which came in at the waist; stopped just above the knees and was held up by two blue braces, shin-length white socks, shiny black school shoes, and a white shirt. The look was meant to convey the idea of innocence and doll-like perfection before the darker side of the children is shown later on in the opera. We look very prim and proper, with our cuffs done up and our socks pulled high, which makes it all the more surprising to the audience that Miles and Flora turn out to be such little horrors, and that the story of the house is so scary and tragic.
In this photo, it’s the end scene of the first act, ‘At Night’, and we’re into our third costume change- back into our PJs for bedtime. In this particular scene, our director wanted us to be moving around the bed in response to the movements of the ghosts, so the costumes couldn’t be quite as covered up as our long, baggy pyjamas in the first scene. In order to show our movements as clearly as possible, we wore simple vests and little white bloomers/boxers. The white of our costumes also created a strong contrast with the ghosts, who were both dressed in sheer black- the symbolism of white (perfection, peace, goodness, etc) and black (evil/danger) being very obvious here.

The fourth costumes that Flora and Miles don for the show were their church outfits for the scene, ‘The Bells’ in the second act. Really no different to the day clothes, except that we’re now wearing jackets.

By this point in the show, I was wearing 5 layers- a weird flattening bra (because I was 15 and playing a 12 year old), a vest, the white shirt, a blue tabard-type-thing which I can only describe as a sort of a backwards waistcoat, and the thick jacket on top! Needless to say, it was VERY hot in those five layers- even more so underneath the bright stage lights!
So there you have it: costume design from the perspective of the actress. If you enjoyed this blog post, don’t worry, because I’m not going anywhere- I’ll be back tomorrow!

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