Breaking Down - Thoughts from the Costume Designer

The Worcester Rep's Costume Designer, Hannah Marshall, talks about her work on The Tempest and a surprising use for a cheese grater!

For me costume design is so much more than clothing an actor. It is about creating a character and delving into the text to piece together what these characters would wear and why. The Tempest offers so much rich imagery, texture and mood that creating costumes for these varied characters has been such an exciting project. But where to start?

Well, after discussing with Ben, the director, a late Victorian setting was decided upon. The strait-laced, stiff and dark clothing of this period would work perfectly for the pompousness of Antonio et al and contrast splendidly with the magical island upon which they are stranded.

Hannah Marshall - Costume Designer

Prospero and Miranda have been on this island for years. Would they be in the same clothes that they were wearing when stranded? I had a thought that maybe they even share clothes, such as a jacket. How would these clothes have aged? My favourite part of the job is bashing costume up, or as we call it in the industry 'breaking down'. This basically involves taking a cheese grater (yes, really!), various paints and even a washing up bowl of strong tea to make costume look stained, old, worn and dirty.

Hannah Marshall - Breaking Down

Caliban was more of a conundrum. The first question I asked was why would he be wearing clothes? Maybe his lust for Miranda has made him want to be 'presentable'? Or has his enslavement made him conform to a human figure? Either way, where has he procured his clothes from?

And so to Ariel, the trickiest of the lot! Ariel is a spirit, imprisoned in a tree for years. How will this impact the costume and will it have affected Ariel's appearance as a whole. How do we depict this characters entrapment? I have tried to convey this symbolically through a sculptural collar that Ariel wears. Today, when Heidi (who is playing Ariel) came for her fitting, she loved this detail. She said that it would really help her capture the character and aid the physicality of Ariel. To hear this was brilliant! I always want my designs to help the actors create their character.

As you may have realised from reading this post, the costume design for The Tempest has been full of questions! Be sure to buy tickets to find out the all the answers!


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Ben Humphrey


Sarah-Jane Morgan

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