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From Fairy Tales to the Stage…An Interview with Costume Designer of our Summer Production of Grimm Tales

August 15, 2019

Interview with Costume Designer of South Hill Park’s Summer Production of Grimm Tales

South Hill Park’s summer production of Grimm Tales (Fri 23 Aug – Sun 25 Aug & Thu 29 Aug – Sun 1 Sept) is set to be a spellbinding spectacle this summer at the Wilde Theatre. Following a colourful collection of enchanting tales by the Brothers Grimm, adapted by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, infamous fairy stories including Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel will be visited in this production and reinvented in this exquisite production.

Naomi Gibbs, Costume Designer for South Hill Park’s inhouse production of Grimm Tales, is costume designer in residence at the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth. Naomi is involved in a wide variety of projects as a freelancer within theatre, education, fashion and music industries. She derives much of her inspiration from history of the arts and enjoys researching each show with enthusiasm.

Naomi’s work can currently be seen on international tour with South Hill Park resident company Blackeyed Theatre’s production of Sherlock Holmes – The Sign of Four and their upcoming tour of Jane Eyre. Alongside this, Naomi manages, trains and supplies wardrobe crew to the fashion industry for live catwalk events, designs stage costumes for various dance or theatre companies and musicians and sometimes leads creative workshops to encourage talent in others. So South Hill Park is thrilled to have her as part of the Grimm Tales creative team.

What is your creative process for designing costume?

My preferred process for designing and creating costumes for each new show is to read the script, first to enjoy it and then to take comprehensive notes of image, theme and movement requirements. You really get to ‘know’ the characters, their environment and situations, so that you can provide something befitting and believable. After all, the designer must assist the actor in telling the story. Long conversations with the rest of the creative team including the director and set designer is something I always really look forward to. Some of the most rewarding parts of collaboration are finding solutions and striking on ideas together with talented creatives, who share your vision and ‘speak your language’. Nothing beats it! I take in everything the director wants, and put it through my own filter of plenty of research and ideas of my own, then come up with some sketches to share with the team. Those are a great  launching point for articulating ideas and making sure that our individual practices are going to come together into a coherent piece, aesthetically speaking. When designs are approved, production can begin. I build my designs with a small team of makers in my studio, where I can keep a close eye on how everything looks together.

Where did you draw inspiration from for the costumes of Grimm Tales?

Much of my inspiration came from the fairy tales I grew up reading, but also countless Gothic literature and subculture references that I have absorbed over the years. Many of my ideas were sparked by memories of cinematic moments, which my mind has refined and twisted into its own version. Folk-style costume and naive European arts and crafts play a part in the designs, as well as the richness of Eastern culture. Though nothing is distinguishable as a particular culture. The romance, fantasy and eclecticism of late costume designer Eiko Ishoka’s work very much inspires me.

Although Grimm Tales is of no concrete time period or place, you’ll see the work is littered with nods to moments of history with a Medieval steeple hat, a large Elizabethan ‘supportasse’ collar, a Dark Ages ‘liripipe’ hood and an 18th century Polonaise silhouette. It’s very much a ‘dressing up box’ feel, but all within this glorious golden sepia palette, informed by the set designer, Victoria Spearing’s vision for her beautiful set.

Which costume has been your most rewarding to create?

The ‘supportasse’ collar for the Evil Queen from Snow White was a very time-consuming build for my team. Assistant Sophie skilfully built the frame from millinery wire, and myself, Sophie and another assistant Rachel dressed the frame with Venice laces and the sheer cloak that tumbles from it. But we are about a third of the way into production and there are a few that are shaping up to be very exciting costumes indeed. I would love to hear feedback from the audience about their favourite pieces after they have seen the production, children and adults alike are in for a real treat!

South Hill Park’s reputation for family shows continues to grow with Grimm Tales as some of the most popular and memorable fairy tale characters are brought to life. Be enchanted by magic and storytelling in this spellbinding production…

To book your tickets visit southhillpark.org.uk or call the Box Office on 01344 484123. Think you know your fairy stories? Think again…

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Fantastic to get an insight into Naomi’s work – I’m keen to follow this career myself so would love an opportunity to see the costumes up close at South Hill Park if possible and to talk to the wardrobe assistants.

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