In Spring of 2007 I was contacted by the Centre for Creative Iniatives director, Irina Templeton, who asked for the impossible. She needed me to costume Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a play involving over thirty five costumes, in two and a half weeks. I'm happy to say I pulled it off, and I am very proud of the results.
My main inspiration was the incredibly beautiful and abstract set created by Jergus Michal Oprsal, featuring a stepped throne dias and a platform behind a curtain of white ropes. Jurgus used four main colours in his set; red, black, white and grey, and I decided to go along with the colour scheme for the costumes. I decided that the red would represent the rot in Denmark, and applied to each character where I thought most appropriate; Hamlet over his heart, Claudius by his hands, Gertrude between her legs, etc. Ophelia wears no red at all until her mad scene when she's completely enveloped in it. I thought it was an effective choice.
Since time was extremely limited, I had to really streamline the process, and brutally sacrifice my emotional attachment to historical authenticity. I decided to follow Jergus' lead in this as well, with a design that was evocative of the Elizabethan period, but very streamlined and abstracted.
Hamlet was movingly performed by Matt McCaull, who also looked gorgeous in black.
Paul Toolan (who played Polonius in the Spectral Theatre production) was a wonderful Claudius. While his costume was very simple, he wore it with a royal dignity.
The lovely Vanessa Parent played Gertrude, with wonderful intensity of emotion. She was also kind enough to join in our colour scheme with her glorious red hair. Along with the whorish red of her underskirt, I also chose the black banding detail of her bodice and standing ruff as a sort of symbolic bondage.
Dick Pugh, with whom I had worked on in A Month in the Country and An Ideal Husband, was a wonderfully doddering Polonius. His costume was very simple black and grey, with no red in it, for Polonius is an innocent in this story.
Tara Pratt was gorgeous as Ophelia. The chemise-less slash and puff of her sleeves gave her a nice vulnerability, especially with the neat cuffs at the ends of her sleeves. Again, she had no red in her costume until the mad scene, which, unfortunately, I have no images of. She wore a large, red ragged cloak that completely enveloped her, which was quite visually shocking after seeing her in virginal white throughout the play.
Ian Attewell, who was also in An Ideal Husband, played Liartes, also in grey and white.
Kurtis Maguire, who played Guildenstern in the Spectral Hamlet, played Horatio in this production. I've also worked with him on several other productions, such as Black Holes and Dead Ends V, both Spectral Theatre productions.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were played by Matthew Thiessen and Ed Appleby, with much slapstick antics. Their costumes were made to look sort of haphazard, with plenty of red scattered around, to make them look completely corruptible.
The players were played by... the players. With a limited amount of time and budget, I decided on these big, bold tabards to cover their costumes, and found some wonderful masks, which gave them a look of playfulness and otherwordliness.
The multiple small parts were also filled in by various members of the cast. Here we see Bernardo, the herald and Reynaldo performed by Travis Dudfield and Ed Appleby, truly men of parts. You'll also notice the coats of arms displayed on their chests. Due to the simplicity of the costumes, sometimes the arms were the only way to differentiate visually, between the characters, although we also used elements such as hoods and belts to distinguish between them. I liked the look of the blazons; you may notice Claudius' bears a crown symbol.
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