Natalie Johnson is Costume Designer for The Shadow. Here we find out what sparked her interest in working in costume design, how she approached the design for The Shadow and why designing for dance is different to designing for other art forms.
1 | Great to have you as part of the team here at Chameleon! Tell us how you got into costume design?
Thank you I’m really excited to be on board! I was always interested in fashion and styling and why certain people are more attracted to certain trends, so I always thought I’d end up doing something in that industry. It wasn’t until I started going to the theatre more with school that I realised I was personally more interested in those choices made by the individual rather than a demographic, and what a person’s clothing might tell you about them. So I decided to pursue that further and studied Theatre Design at university.
2 | What is your creative process and how did you approach the costume design for The Shadow?
Designing for a dance piece is different to designing for drama or musical theatre for example. With those, I’ll read the script three or four times as a different ‘reader’. Once as an audience member, once more analytically, and finally as a designer with the more practical mind of who needs what and when. But with dance when there is no script, it becomes more of a response to a concept. I spoke in depth with Anthony about his concept for the show and what immediate character traits we wanted to convey. I then draw inspiration from art, fashion and other responses to similar notions, and applied those to The Shadow to see what would work.
3 | What elements of The Shadow have inspired your ideas and informed your costume design for the production?
For ‘The Shadows’ themselves we wanted to portray the idea that these are usually repressed urges or emotions. I’m sure we have all at some point had to hold back on what we really want to say or do because it isn’t always appropriate in certain social situations. So I wanted the shadows to feel bound and almost ‘in captivity’ in our own minds. For ‘the characters’ it’s more about the quality or style of their movement. What is their storyline and how do they express that? It’s almost less about what these people chose to wear that day and more about how they’re presented on stage to help tell their narrative, and also allow full range of movement.
4 | How do you hope the costume adds to the audience experience at the live shows?
I suppose just that it helps the audience understand someone’s journey a bit more, or how they are perceived by the other characters on stage. Most of the time design – whether that be costume, set, lighting, sound, video – is just laying down little clues to tell our narrative via an alternate route than the spoken words or in this case the choreography. It should hopefully just heighten what I’m sure is going to be an already beautifully told story.
The Shadow tours this Autumn. Tour dates include Fri 22 & Sat 23 Nov, 8pm, at HOME, Manchester; Tue 26 Nov, 7:30pm at The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University; Sat 30 Nov, 8pm, at University Theatre, Bath Spa University. More info.
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Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!