Audrey Currie – costume design, and Karen Lamont-Barnett – makeup and wigs, are two halves of a talented design team for Packemin Productions. Together, they are working on the company’s latest offering – Shrek the Musical – currently playing at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta.
This is Audrey and Karen’s sixth production working together and, according to Audrey, their most challenging one yet. As a brand new production in Australia, shown for the first time at the Riverside Theatre, there were no costumes already produced. And for this show in particular, the costumes are key.
“A lot of times, for other shows, you might hire certain sections from companies that have already done the show. But we had to do this show from scratch,” says Audrey.
With every costume seen on stage made especially for this production, Audrey says it came down to team work. “We look at it as costumes, hair and makeup together. Even back stage with quick changes, Karen has her team, and I have my team, and we work together.”
For six solid months, Audrey and her team of three costume makers, have been planning for, and working on more than 150 different costumes – with almost as many spreadsheets required to keep track of the costume changes for each actor.
“In the opening number we have 25 people on stage as ‘happy people’ – some of them exit and are back on less than two minutes later in a different costume – as a fairy tale character, complete with wigs.”
With audience expectations high, part of the challenge was ensuring the costumes and characters stayed true to the movie, while also appealing to the show’s primary audience – young children.
“With this show, everyone has to be recognisable. We tried to keep the costumes as close as possible to what people have seen on screen,” says Audrey. “We looked at what was in the movie and we worked with that – and added our own flair.”
The results are spectacular. Each fairy tale character is unique, individual, stunningly detailed, and instantly recognisable – from Pinocchio to Humpty Dumpty to the Big Bad Wolf.
“We have tried to make everything bright and fun,” says Audrey. “We aimed to make the characters larger than life, because they are larger than life. They are fairy tale creatures that we’ve all grown up with.”
While she has sewn all her life, Audrey only began costume designing five years ago, after completing a costume design course at TAFE. “This has been the biggest show I have done,” says Audrey.
Having just completed the opening weekend, Audrey says her and her team of makers were still making alterations on opening night.
“It’s been a work in progress. And through the entire show we will continue with design changes or alterations,” says Audrey. “We had a wardrobe malfunction at the preview – one of the character’s pants split. But I think, I hope, that happened off stage, not on. We were able to stitch them back up in time.”
And that hasn’t been the only test for the costume team. Working costumes around choreography, direction, fast costume changes, and Lord Farquaad’s legs has been particularly challenging.
“With Luke (Luke Joslin, Lord Farquaad), the progression of the legs has been a real process. We tried so many different ways to get those legs to work and move like legs, but also feel comfortable for him. We finally got it how we wanted it at the last dress rehearsal.”
“We have to make alterations to the costumes to allow for movement, or the actors need to make adjustments because of their costume,” adds Audrey. “It’s a work in progress and a team effort.”
Shrek the Musical is playing at the Riverside Theatre until Saturday 17 February 2018. Bookings can be made online through the Riverside Theatre website.