Stage Style. 11 February 2015 A look at some sartorially splendid stage shows

With awards season well and truly underway, at the moment it seems you can’t move for coverage and column inches dedicated to who’s wearing what, how many dollars’ worth of diamonds have been loaned for glistening appearances on the red carpet, and who’s winning and losing in the style stakes. Amidst Oscar 2015 diversity-gate and Birdhood/Boyman confusion, it’s reassuring to know that there’s one steadfast which we can all cling on to- the sartorial circus which rolls into perfectly polished action as soon as there’s so much as a sniff of nomination news. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as guilty as the next girl of trawling through the array of red carpet galleries, usually making a series of screwed up/surprised/scandalised expressions depending on who’s worn what, but, in an age where movie stars and merchandising go hand in hand, things tend to get a little bit, well, predictable. So, this year, I’m shunning the hype and turning my eyes to a far more splendid source of style inspiration- the stage.

Over recent months, London’s theatres have been awash with some immaculately tailored productions. The recently closed Here Lies Love at the National centred on the triumphs and tribulations of Imelda Marcos- from beauty pageant belle to first lady fashion icon.  For the production, costume designer Clint Ramos captured the period details required to characterise a woman who he himself describes as ‘a fierce mannequin for the national costume’ as much as a style icon- a process which was informed by archive research and drawing upon modern garment technology. Accessibility and elements of club culture all informed the design process, as did the practical necessity of the performance- with magnets and cleverly concealed zips all helping to facilitate the multitude of costume changes which punctuate the production. If only getting dressed in real life was as straightforward..!

Across the river, City of Angels at The Donmar is an unrelenting celebration of vogue-noir, crime scene chic and vintage inspired glamour, all underscored by the moody, shady ambience of Robert Jones’ stage and costume design. The parallel narratives of Larry Gelbart’s book afford this interpretation an interesting, metatheatrical duality- with the vibrant ‘real world’ of Hadley Fraser’s Stine contrasted effortlessly with the washed out, grey tinged universe of Tam Mutu’s Detective Stone. With a bounty of references to classic cinema, and celluloid style icons, City of Angels is a veritable visual feast- and if you’re not inspired to buy a trench coat and trilby then you don’t know what’s good for you, and no mistake.

Sauntering over to the Harold Pinter, we find the dapper dandies of the Sunny Afternoon cast. With meticulous attention to detail, the production recreates the flamboyant aesthetic of the 1960s, complete with beehives, bell bottoms and batik designs. The costumes effortlessly evoke the avant-garde spirit of the era, as well as capturing the ground breaking status of The Kinks as style icons- self-styled Muswell Hillbillies. Infused with colour, and the swaggering confidence of the Carnebetian spirit, being a Dedicated Follower of Fashion has never looked like so much fun.

Finally, to 1927 and the unique, innovative visuals of their latest masterpiece- Golem. Informed by the highly codified aesthetic of silent film, this production is one which capitalises on the power of costume as an instant visual signifier of character, and the exaggerated design which permeates the production is nowhere more evident than in the vivid outfits worn by the ensemble. Protagonist Robert Robertson undergoes one serious wardrobe transformation when his beige, binary code bedecked uniform is supplanted by the latest, Golem inspired chic (‘the world is your oyster when you’re fashionably dressed’, after all), indicating that there’s something of a hidden price to pay for being bang on trend. Better to stick with a quirky pencil bedecked hat a la stationery obsessive Joy, or stand out from the crowd like Annie and her punk rock outfit The Underdogs. After all- in the immortal words of Groove Armada- if everybody looked the same, we’d get tired of looking at each other..

Sarah Farrell


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