If clothes make the man then costumes certainly make the character.
And when the character in question is Mother Goose, as played by Brian Down in Rivercity Players’ upcoming Christmas pantomime, then the costume is certainly a crowning glory for an actor well known locally for brilliant performances.
“Mother Goose is spectacular,” says Alice Holm, referring to the title character in Rivercity Players’ production of Mother Goose. Holm is the costume director in charge of dressing up the actors in great costumes.
The community theatre group is trying a bit of an experiment by staging a pantomime for the first time that anyone can remember in Campbell River.
Holiday pantomimes are a huge tradition in Britain and they have been met with big success in other Vancouver Island communities like Courtenay and Nanaimo.
And no wonder, they’re fun for the whole family. There are villains and heroes, singing and dancing, comedy and drama and extensive audience participation.
Audiences are encouraged to cheer and boo the characters while the actors often engage the patrons in some of the dialogue. It’s gloriously over-the-top fun.
Another tradition within the tradition is that the lead character is usually a female played by a male.
And when the lead is as loud and ebullient as Brian Down, then he’s going to need a costume to match.
Rivercity Players has brought together a costuming team that has produced stunning attire for all the various characters, a mix of experienced adult performers and talented youngsters.
To put on a production like this you’re going to need a Mother Goose, of course, a king, a queen, a villainous Chancellor, and a whole host of fairy tale characters from Little Boy Blue to Jack and Jill. Little Bo Peep. Fairies too.
And a goose.
“The goose was definitely the most challenging,” says Kim Seeley one of the women responsible for converting the costumes from drawings to cloth.
The challenge with the goose was to create a large bird costume that a child could fit in as well as act and move about the stage without suffocating.
Seeley is a fabric artist, a master seamstress who happened to mention at her daughter’s audition that she can sew without a pattern. That caught Holm’s attention, a seamstress herself who had been recruited to head up the costumes.
The costumes were designed by Linda Walton who produced sketches of the characters which Seeley would convert to fabric, visualizing how to do so in her head.
“At first it was a little overwhelming and trepidatious,” Seeley says.
Both women say they had no idea how big a job costuming a production like this is.
“I thought this was a great way to spend some time with my eldest daughter,” Seeley says. “It’s become a huge project right now in the middle of my work.”
Seeley produces children’s adjustable hats for the business she co-owns: Toad in a Tree.
This is the first time both women have ever done anything like this. The spectacular results, as pictures show, speak for themselves.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the costuming process has been the response from the kids in the cast when they put their costumes on for the first time.
“They’re so excited by it,” Holm says.
Of course, there’s a whole team behind the costume creation.
Besides Seeley and Holm, there’s the aforementioned designer Linda Walton as well as Nancy Walsh who among other things produced the hats and other headwear, as well as a number of other contributors of various talents.
It will all make for a visually delightful evening of music and comedy. Holm said it’s not just a children’s play. It works on two levels, a formula you’d recognize from films like Madagascar where there’s humour kids will get and jokes on another level that adults will get.
As for Mother Goose, she/he looks resplendent in a costume which features six metres of lace, more than one scavenged dress, one pair of, ahem, large bloomers and two big…well, uh, let’s just say there’s a lot of padding…
Costumers go to the ‘well’ for material
Much of the fabric for the Mother Goose costumes was secured from Rivercity’s extensive collection of clothing used in plays over the last 10 or 20 years.
Something of a recycler herself, Kim Seeley dove into the costume racks and began scavenging useful dresses, coats, pants and even curtains.
“It got kind of exciting going through the back (of Rivercity Player’s studio) and looking through the costumes,” Seeley says.
“It’s like Gone With the Wind,” Alice Holm says, referring to the scene when Scarlet O’Hara creates a ball gown from curtains. “I am sure members of the audience will see ‘Mrs. Gertrude’s’ curtains.”
The biggest job is converting clothing to fit people. Dresses are split up the back to expand them, coats are taken out.
“I work from my head,” Seeley says. “Once I put everything in front of me it transforms from there.”
- TICKET INFO: Mother Goose plays at the Tidemark Theatre Dec. 27-31. Tickets are $18 adult, $15 student/senior, $12 children 12 and under and curtain time is 7:30 p.m.
On New Year’s Eve there will be a short party afterwards that will wrap up in time for patrons to head off to other festivities if they want. Call the Tidemark Theatre Box Office at 287-PINK (7465) or purchase online at www.tidemarktheatre.com.