Final Year Costume Design Major Project – Macbeth

Alison Nea
Design for Theatre

College
Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology

Contact
alisonneadesign@gmail.com
https://www.instagram.com/alisonnea.design/
https://www.alisonneadesign.com/

Alison Nea

Final Year Costume Design Major Project – Macbeth

I chose to design Macbeth by William Shakespeare for my final year Costume Design Major Project. I wanted to explore a text that has been extensively re-imagined and apply my own contemporary interpretation to the story through researching the play’s themes of gender politics, the foreboding sense of violence and the corruption of power. I found ways of expressing these themes with experimentation and exploration of fabrics, texture and lighting along with an in depth research of mood and space. The performance is designed for a live audience staged in Dublin’s Meeting House Square under the venue’s giant weather shielding umbrellas, transporting Shakespeare’s 17th century open-air performances from London’s Globe Theatre to a contemporary 21st century setting. Macbeth is a murderous story of tyranny and the hunger for power, spurred on by the fantastical ‘predictions’ of the three grotesque Wyrd Sisters. I sought out to create a dark and severe world that embodied this sense of evil and greed within this site specific space. The opening cracks of lightning fill a set of giant foreshadowing shards of rusted metal, designed to emulate the site’s metal surroundings while embodying the symbol of the dreaded dagger. These lightning cracks create an opening in one of the shards which begins a steady flow of ‘blood’ from its splintered form, increasing as the story intensifies and becomes more violent. Taking influence from couture fashion and combined with hints of 16th century styling and armoury, the costumes are contemporary pieces designed to sit cohesively within this timeless jagged metal world. I explored ways of finding fluidity within the genders of the characters, mainly Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, as the relationship of masculinity and cruelty is frequently questioned throughout. I devised an ensemble of harsh red and black leathers and metal to illustrate the story’s tough and strong characters while adopting soft white and grey knits and cottons to create their tragic counterpart. The wrap motif of the upper-class characters is reflected in the woodland robes of the witches, but these creatures are more haggard and feral in their appearance. For the project’s technical assessment I constructed the costume for the lead character Macbeth in Act Five, when he has reached the peak of his murderous rampage and lost all shred of sanity, desperately grasping to the misleading predictions of the witches that ultimately lead to his demise. This ensemble would be worn by Macbeth in Act One, but with more subdued dull grey lacing on the jacket’s sleeve and the same grey leather armour as his Thane comrades. As the character becomes more savage, more red is introduced. The costume consists of a quilted black leather doublet, fastened with leather straps and sleeves with eyelets dressed in chaotic red lacing, a black denim wrap half-skirt layered over matching low-crotch pants – both buckled with denim belts, and finally a leather armour shoulder piece dyed red and black and carved with the image of a ‘hellhound’ – all fastened together with suede lacing and gun-metal buckles. In reality, the costume would then be broken down for authenticity.

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