Interview with Naomi Gibbs, Costume Designer for Alice in Wonderland
This Easter South Hill Park presents Alice in Wonderland – A Magical Musical Adventure (Wed 15 – Sun 19 April). A colourful re-imagining of the much loved children’s tale, featuring a West End standard score, an award-winning creative team, and a cast of home-grown talent playing a host of eccentric characters.
We had a chat with the incredibly talented costume designer for the show, Naomi Rachel Gibbs, who also designed the costumes for the hugely successful South Hill Park pantomime, Aladdin.
The kicking-off point for me was the script, as well as from discussions with our wonderful director Rosie. My designs are heavily informed also by Victoria Spearing’s stunning set designs (I worked from her initial sketches from our first production meeting). Her vision always feeds mine on the numerous times I have had the pleasure of working with her. She gives me visuals and a palette to help create a cohesive look between us.
How many designs did you go through until you landed on the right one for the character of the Red Queen?
Actually, you may be surprised to know it was just the one. As we are setting this production in the 1940s (I am a huge fan of the mid-century aesthetics), I instinctively knew where I wanted to go with it. You may have picked up that Laura’s Red Queen is very much a Femme-Fatale-like figure. In my eyes, they have a cold regality to them in the old movies. I took some inspiration from Rita Hayworth in Gilda.
Which of the costumes was the most fun to design?
The White Rabbit and the March Hare were immensely fun to design and interpret. Eagle-eyed fashionistas in the audience may notice that I reference a pinch of Vivienne Westwood’s early to mid 1990s couture collections, with the plaids, the fitted bodices, hats and bustle details. Lots of fun!
One challenge a designer will always have with a title that has been previously done by a colossal giant of a machine such as Disney, is that you must simultaneously avoid being informed by their aesthetics, whilst still attempting to give your own audience what they expect. As such, I didn’t want our Alice to be in baby blue with a white pinny. Instead, I chose what I hope will be exactly the right shade of periwinkle to correspond well as she travels between real world 1940s and Wonderland. If I had chosen to muddy a blue, such as a true 1940s air force shade, the lighting designer would have had a nightmare trying to make her look crisp and clear in Wonderland. She’d have sunk into the surroundings. I did a take on a true vintage dress I saw and loved and redesigned it to suit all three of our wonderful ‘Alices’. Of course the dress has to be cut differently for a young woman playing a girl than it does for children playing smaller versions of her.
Don’t miss your chance to see the spectacular production, featuring Naomi’s beautiful costumes this Easter at South Hill Park. Plus for anyone ages 7-17yrs who loves to perform, you can get involved with Easter School! Click here to book your tickets for the show or call the Box Office on 01344 484123.