Sunday, October 22, 2006

Merry Wives

I spent some pleasurable hours in Satwa yesterday, buying fabric for our upcoming school production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, a Shakespeare romp full of masculine folly, and female virtue, intelligence and wit. They don't write plays like that any more!

The original intention was to take the show to Delhi, where we had been invited to participate in a Schools' Shakespeare Festival. Unfortunately, our hosts had to cancel, but in the meantime, my students had spent their summer vacation learning their lines - in some cases, several hundred lines, and in a totally unfamiliar idiom. So the show must go on!

This is all tied into an IB Theatre Arts course, so we are going for fairly authentic staging: outdoors, under a canopy, though with the audience seated facing the stage, rather than either standing on three sides of the stage, or seated in encircling galleries (Shakespeare's 'wooden O') .

Accordingly, though the shows will be in the evening, rather than during daylight hours as they would have been in Shakespeare's day, we will simply have a 'daylight' wash of light throughout both play and interval, and not a microphone anywhere.

The Globe Theatre website features a very helpful virtual tour. I stood right in front of the stage for an entire performance a couple of years ago: it is a unique experience which I would love to repeat - and outside my day job, for which I'm on my feet most of the time, I don't usually stand up for anything!

However, Shakespeare does not have to be all crinolines and codpieces - we're going for authenticity, not a living museum exhibit! There is also the matter of making it accessible to a high school audience more used to rapid-action movies and TV than live theatre, and for many of whom English is their second language. Hmm.

So our production unfolds in a sort of timewarp of the 1590s and the 1950s. And just as our IB students have brainstormed staging and lighting which marries 16th Century and contemporary conditions and technology, so too our student designers have come up with a cross between crinolines and poodle skirts, and between slashed doublets and draped jackets. (Have I ever mentioned my immense admiration and affection for our students?)

Unfortunately, I backspaced over the Tudor image, and can't re-insert it, so I'll do it separately, but here are some 50s styles, and the colour combinations.


Sir John Falstaff, middle-aged reprobate (lovable rogue) will be in the drape jacket and narrow trousers of a much younger (and slimmer!) man, as will his three mismatched hangers-on. Add the slashed sleeves of several centuries earlier, and we get our crossover - but no-one's singing The Timewarp in this show!











Look at the skirts on these! The square neckline was almost as popular in the 1950s as in the 1590s.











Some creative decisions on layers, sleeves, hemlines and fabrics have stirred considerable anticipation of the final results!













These are the fabrics for our rogues: brown denim (to be distressed as befits a total slob with one outfit to his name); muted green cotton for someone with philosophical pretensions; royal blue velvet for our knight aberrant; and black leather (ok - the budget only runs to PVC.) for the girl who's more dangerous than the guys.

I only wish I'd photographed the green and yellow plaid furnishing fabric for the Welsh parson, and the banana yellow blazer fabric for the hopelessly over-eager gentleman-suitor. Damn!

For garrulous Mistress Quickly, excitable meddler and malapropeller par excelsis, we have this tasteful combination - and a fab outfit for Act 5, when she dresses up as Queen of the Fairies!





Argh! I just lost one of the Merry Wives! Mistress Ford, plagued with a jealous husband (in grey), wears a trim style in modest navy blue crepe and sky blue cotton.
Mistress Page, whose husband (in warm brown) knows her qualities and her merit, is peachy and glowing in warm orange cotton and satin, with ample sleeves in translucent cream. (The colours are not quite true here, photographed under fluorescent lights).

Mine Hostess of the Garter Tavern (a role originally written for a man - er - in a male role, unlike the actual female roles, which were also played by men!) will be splendid in satins of vivid cherry, rich lavender and caramel. Perhaps we could name a dessert after her?


Which leaves sweet Anne Page, a breath away from her seventeeth birthday, and her inheritance from Grandfather. Pretty in pink and white, and bridal in lilac. No wonder three men are competing to steal her away to the chapel.

The costume sources here are from Unicorn hire and the http://www.fiftiesweb.com/ .

The costumes are being made by the meticulous and extraordinarily talented Alevtina Mylnikova at Unicorn Events Management (unicorne@eim.ae)

6 comments:

nzm said...

Sounds wonderful!

Are the plays going to be open to the public, or for students and faculty only?

MamaDuck said...

We don't advertise in the press, but we tell other schools, and anyone's welcome.

Mme Cyn said...

If you need a big wicker basket to bundle Falstaff into, I have one. It's basically a basket trunk, with a lid, and will certainly take a skinny Falstaff.

And please tell the DDG to publicize it! I wanna see it!

MamaDuck said...

Oh THANK YOU! Our props guy has gone ominously quiet, so a back-up plan is very comforting! Our Falstaff is slim, but he'll be wearing some serious padding. I'll phone.

MamaDuck said...

But - The basket's for Merry Wives, the school show - not Treasure Island

elle said...

Please post some photo's of the finished costumes. Can't wait to see them