Behind the Scenes with the Queen of Crowns


Photo by Andrew Fox, courtesy RSC

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, starring Antony Sher in addition to directed by Gregory Doran, can be at the BAM Harvey Theater through April 7 to 29.

By Christian Barclay

The RSC’s archival collection includes more than 2,500 costumes, props, in addition to designs dating through the 1800s to today. that will offers an overview of the way theatrical performances have changed over time in addition to how different directors in addition to designers have approached Shakespeare’s work.

Few costumes carry the power of a crown––the gilded accessory that will separates a commoner through a king. Kate Freshwater, the company’s senior milliner, talks about the creation of the company’s royal headwear.

How many crowns does the RSC have in its archive in addition to when was the first one made?
We have 60 crowns in our special archive collection––in addition to the ones stored in our costume store, where there are numerous some other crowns through past productions. The oldest one we know the confirmed date of was made in 1949 for a production of Macbeth. that will was made for Diana Wynyard, who played Lady Macbeth.

Photo by Andrew Fox, courtesy RSC

When designing a crown, how does the process begin?
The designer on each production features a vision of what they want their costumes to look like, including the crowns. So at the start of the process we discuss what can be needed, including what materials we already have in addition to what we may need to get in. We need quite a lot of information, such as how that will will be worn in addition to what processes that will goes through (e.g. Does that will get dropped or thrown as part of the action of the show?). For instance, in our current production of Macbeth, the crown needs to be worn by nine different people on stage, which can be challenging.

Photo by Andrew Fox, courtesy RSC

So lots of questions need to be answered before “the make” starts. When we get to a certain point in building that will, we will check in again with the designer before we get ready for fitting that will on the actor. (All RSC actors have a lot of measurements taken, including head size!) We also need to know if the actor will be wearing a wig or hair piece as This kind of obviously has to be factored into the design.

Photo by Andrew Fox, courtesy RSC

What are the differences in crowns for queens in addition to crowns for kings?
There can be not always a difference, as they might be passed down by generations in addition to worn by both sexes. yet ladies’ crowns tend to usually be a bit finer in addition to more decorative in addition to tend to perch on a wig. Mens’ crowns are often more sturdy, in addition to fit lower down around their forehead.

Photo by Andrew Fox, courtesy RSC


What kinds of materials, metals, in addition to embellishments are used?

The base can be usually wire, or sometimes buckram or rhino flex––which can be very starchy fabric that will you can mold with heat. This kind of makes the basic shape. Then we can build in either leather or brass shim––a thin sheet of brass or sometimes pewter. The some other option can be to use thicker brass which can be then cut on the laser cutter at our workshops in addition to soldered together. that will can then be decorated with metal pressings/settings or jewels.

We have made light leather crowns which are the easiest to manipulate; the heaviest are the ones made of thick metal. The metal pressings are decorative pieces that will can be riveted or soldered on, in addition to we also sometimes use decorative filigree bandings which are quite lightweight.



Photo by Andrew Fox, courtesy RSC


How was Lear’s flower crown created in addition to how does its design reflect his mind state at the time?
A base of cane was twined into a wreath shape in addition to then fake flowers in addition to herbs were created in addition to added in. These include what can be referred to within the text of Lear (see below) so that will can be as faithful as possible, as we like to pay close attention to detail in what we make. We specially created the nettles in addition to burdock leaves (made by printing on to silk), as well as the bramble twig that will Lear picks out of the wreath within the scene. This kind of had to be magnetized so that will stays securely within the crown as Antony moves around, yet can be picked out easily by him as part of the action.

CORDELIA
Alack, ’tis he: why, he was met even today
As mad as the vex’d sea; singing aloud;
Crown’d with rank fumiter in addition to furrow-weeds,
With bur-docks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers,
Darnel, in addition to all the idle weeds that will grow
In our sustaining corn. A century send forth;
Search every acre within the high-grown field,
in addition to bring him to our eye.

Stitch in Time helps the RSC restore in addition to redevelop its Costume Workshop, supporting its skilled costume makers with state-of-the-art workshops in addition to facilities.

Christian Barclay can be a publicist at BAM.

© 2018 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Behind the Scenes with the Queen of Crowns

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