Today we’re joined by the fabulous Chesca Smith who is going to give us an explicit incite into the costume design and the challenges she faces with LODS next production, Spring Awakening!

I’ve been with LODS since 2014, and unusually for our society I have never ventured on stage, my passion lies with costumes and bringing the shows to life through the power of clothing. My degree was in fashion design, but I have always loved musical theatre and when the opportunity presented itself to work with LODS on costumes I jumped at the chance. Shows I have worked on so far are FOOTLOOSE (2014), THE ADDAMS FAMILY (2015), GHOST (2015) and COPACABANA (2018).

The great thing I’ve found about Spring Awakening is that it is so freeing. There’s no rigidity to the look of the show, meaning that each production undertaken can be entirely different from one that has come before. Generally the staging is very loose and quite artistic therefore the costumes can be interpreted in many ways too. Some productions have set the show in 1940’s war time Germany; others have staged it as modern day however we have stuck to the traditional setting of the late 1800’s.

Spring Awakening is a tricky yet refreshing show to be involved with costume wise and has really kept me on my toes. Despite LODS spending on average around £30,000 per production I actually only have a budget of £300 to dress the entire cast for this show – there are 20 cast members, so this works out as around £15.00 each. Like I said, TRICKY.

I have tried to be true to the details of the period, such as high necklines, stockings, and ruffles for the girls; braces, loose shirts and wool coats for the boys. However due to the modern score there is a playfulness and rebellious side to our characters that we can show through their costumes. So we may tweak elements such as raising hemlines, choosing a more modern colour scheme or pattern, or being playful with accessories. This is something that you just couldn’t do if you were producing a show set in a similar time, such as My Fair Lady or Oliver!

The other great thing about this show is that because the characters are so complex and have such a tangle of issues and emotional turmoil; it makes it very easy to dress the cast in something that reflects the attributes of their characters. Take Moritz, for example, played by Matt Wallace, his character is suffering greatly from stress, and later a deep depression. Throughout the course of the show we can show this develop scene by scene, maybe the shirt becomes untucked or unbuttoned, socks fall down, the tie gets loosened or removed, hair becomes dishevelled. It may only be subtle but building it up gradually helps to create a very different costume by the end of the show compared to what you started with, all whilst showing what that character has been through. With Wendla, played by Eva Tobin, we can show the purity and naivety of her character through her childlike clothing. Her dress is primarily white with tones of pale blue, furthering the innocence of her character. Her dress also has buttons down the front of it to show the fragility of that naivety being broken when she and Melchior develop their relationship. Another character we can look at is Martha, played by Rebecca Wallace. Martha is being abused by her father, and covers up the bruises with her clothing, therefore I wanted to put her in something that symbolised that protection, and so opted for a military style jacket. The colours of her outfit are also very grey and dreary showing that her spirit has been broken by the perils that she has had to face.

As I previously mentioned, £300 for the whole show isn’t a lot to work with but we’ve been clever and scoured charity shops, eBay, remnant piles and we were lucky to happen upon a theatrical costume store that was closing down so got a mass of items for just £33.00. Winner! Of course there are some specifics that we will have to buy new, and some more difficult costumes such as the head teacher and vicar that we will look to hire. For the adults in the show we have tried to create a more rigid and technically correct look for their costumes, to contrast against the youth and wildness of the teenagers. I’m confident that we can stick to our budget but it may involve a few people raiding their wardrobes to find those old boots or that lacey blouse from 6 shows ago. Hopefully our efforts will result in LODS take on the costume design rivalling that of the original Broadway version!

To see the finished product book your tickets below. We are at the Palace Theatre from 17th – 20th October 2018. Can’t wait to see you there!