Laura Clarkson and Lis Evans take us behind the scenes on designing The Snow Queen.
“Being able to let my imagination run wild, that’s my favourite part of this job,” says the New Vic’s Head of Design, Lis Evans.
Well there’s certainly imagination aplenty in The Snow Queen.
Lis, who designed the costumes for The Snow Queen is surrounded by dozens of sketches and fabric samples. The Costume team are working on upwards of fifty costumes for 12 actors, then there’s the 24 strong Young Company to think of.
Next door, the Workshop department is bursting with icicles, snowflakes and snow machines galore. Books are piled high, giant chandeliers are being built and all manner of animal puppets have made the Workshop their home.
Laura Clarkson, the New Vic’s Head of Workshop who designed the set for the production, tells us she drew her inspiration from traditional storybooks and Hans Christian Andersen’s own hobby of paper craft.
“The entire set is based on books and the joy you can get from reading as a child, the premise of the whole design is about discovering the amazing things that come from reading,” Laura says: “I’ve kept the set in that world, using influences from pop-up books and newspaper print to the puppets looking like they’ve been made using origami design.
“Creating a set which pops up like a spot of paper craft has been a challenge as wood is just a little bit heavier than paper (!) but we’ve been inventive in coming up with solutions to make it all work.”
Lis also researched original illustrations and Hans Christian Andersen’s history, as well as getting ideas from the traditional costumes of Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.
“Theresa (Heskins) has written some fantastic descriptions of the Snow Queen and her ice army, about them all being made of interlinked snowflakes so I wanted to make sure all the costumes are linked together and blend into Laura’s set,” she says: “The Snow Queen’s costume has been interesting to design as you often see her dressed in lots of furs but I wanted to convey the idea that she’s actually made from ice.
“I always have to consider the practicalities of the costumes – the fact that the actor might have to skate, sing, dance, and change from being a schoolchild, to a footman to an animal all in a matter of seconds.”
For Christmas productions most costumes seen on stage will be made from scratch by the New Vic’s in-house Costume department.
“We design the costumes, source fabric and then start making them properly when the cast join us. We then have to source all the extras – wigs, shoes, accessories, for example.”
Laura concludes: “Every year we want to get bigger and better and this year has been no different. I always like the audience to be part of the action and make sure they feel as if they’re an integral part of a show. This year, they will have a little puzzle to solve…but that’s all I’m saying, we have to keep a few secrets!”