ON COSTUME AND STAGE DESIGN OF THE PRODUCTION
The history of King Matt the First is a story of an 11-years-old boy forced to become a king after the sudden death of his king-father. Faced with the inefficient and alienated bureaucracy of the existing system, he tries to establish a state with a human face by starting a Children’s Parliament.
The stage intended for the performance was “Stage under the stars”, placed at the top of Puppet theatre in Ljubljana. A glass ceiling and metal constructions define a big space, meant to be used for performing or as a conference room. A dramaturgical frame of stage and costume design is based on two ways of using this space, first by “hiding” it and then revealing it in the particular moment of the performance.
The additional performing space inside this one was built, creating a small box with chamber theatre atmosphere, where the story of the past times is being told.
Imagined as the “entrée” to a palace or a parliament in which political decisions are being made, it is defined by a deep honey yellow wooden flooring, a lavish chandelier and dark green velvet curtain, closing it on all four sides. But in the moment of the performance when Matt becomes a king and decides to change the rules by giving a voice to children, the change of the spaces follows. By a sudden movement, curtains are flied to each corner of the bigger room, revealing it. Its clean lines and glass windows immediately brings us back to here and now. The temperature inside the chamber box is changed, the warmth of the reflectors in the previously intimate space of “safe” storytelling is cooled down. The audience is being left seated in newly created opened space, and the comfort and the softness of the velvet belongs to the image of the past. The children from the audience are invited to make working groups. Those are defined by the four spaces outside the chamber box, created and separated by the previous curtain move. In each of these newly created spaces, there is an actor waiting with twenty-five chairs formed in circle and a flipchart stand. Ministries of culture, education and sport, social affairs and labour are thus created.
While they debate ideas and write suggestions for the changes they want to make for the sake of improving the world they live in, their parents are sent to the corridor space. There the situation of a classroom is created by the line of chairs put two in two one behind the other. The test they are asked to solve is a list of questions regarding the interests (music, sport, aims) of their children. The question arising is how much they know about their children while expecting them to fit unquestionably in the world of grown-ups.
I aimed to create the world of the performance which would enable the story to communicate with taste, experiences and wishes of contemporary children. Instead of presenting them of “how exactly (we think) it used to be”, I wanted to make the past look familiar. Being consumed with beauty of cultural artefacts of the times passed, I had a wish to introduce both myself and the audience to certain objects that represent the eras, referential for the performance. In this time-travel quest was to check if and how they preserved their meaning, travelling through the ages of new contexts and knowledge(s). The game was to probe how they can gain humour, daringness or produce fear, when juxtaposed with unexpected way of using or contextualizing them onstage. Baroque era heritage swirled with decorative beauty of the 1920s.
Wind machine was used onstage to introduce the sound of war. Old tin megaphones with speakers, mounted in all four corners of the stage presented the media voice of the kingdom. As in our times, we hear the news coming from outside which don’t match what we saw onstage with our own eyes. Beautifully elaborated throne becomes the battlefield of power-struggle, where everyone secretly tried to sit. Globus cruciger’s pillow is just the pillow to sit on, for a lonely child-king on the cold floor on the bare stage.
Our story is to be presented by seven actors only. One of the challenges is to find the language by which it will be possible to create the kingdom from the narrative, inhabited by so many personalities that are able to produce multiple occasions. Given the frame of storytelling, actors they never leave the stage for more than a few seconds. They also need to be able to swop characters faster than an eye blink. The costume I want to make, has many Which costume can be equally useful to tell “the story of the story” (to show that we’re not convincing the audience that we are the actual characters from the very story) (not hiding the fact of acting), while in the same time helps the occasional need for an illusion and attachment to the character? What kind of shape, meaning and impression is able to talk about the past in the way that we end up being mixed-up in nowadays?
At the very beginning of the play, all actors look like a rather homogenous group. Being dressed in equal clothes, they resemble a bunch of semi-clowns, friendly figures whose personalization is yet to come. Dark occasions in the kingdom are to promote some of them into the members of the authoritarian squad they represent.
A grey shirt and a pair of trousers is their uniform, a uniform of the actor who is openly telling the story. An actor-clerk of sorts, who is there to be able to deliver all kinds of duties (parts). The only part of the costume that invites past is a small cloak attached to it. Since it is made of light and fluid viscose fabric, the cloak tends to “appear” only as an adornment from the back side, and in the front, giving the impression of a bit-out-of-the-regular uniform, when actor moves or raises arms. The trousers are a little dedication to the times when the play was written. Striped dark grey fabric, widely used from 19th century on, were to mark a gentleman who gained a sharp distinction from the ladies costume, after the French revolution, in the conservative separation of female and male realm in clothing, fixed in the Victorian era. The world of men to be trusted, of the men ruling the state is to be found here; serious, minimal and understated in a famously British way it serves and protects the given order. The same promise is given by the actors: to protect and serve the conventional theatre presented by the curtain, gorgeous chandelier and lavishly painted cognac-coloured wooden floor. But it is only until the order of things is being shaken: the arrival of the young king, who wants to make the state with a human face, will challenge this seemingly steady architecture of objects and relations.
The fact of telling is preserved by the role of a narrator guiding us through the story as if being the writer himself. He constructs the narrative before our eyes by naming the actors, who seemingly happen to be on the stage by chance in that very moment, into particular characters. The character change is further performed by each actor, by using a different posture, mimics and the ways of speaking. In the time of “becoming” a particular character, an item defining the character is presented along.
After the world that constitutes the kingdom is constructed, the new king is named. He and his fellow friends will not change their characters anymore, and the rest will stay “free” from the fix character meaning and be able to continue to “flow”, creating different personalities appearing in the play.
Children from the audience are being given the props to keep safe, while the actor doesn’t need it or is hiding into another character inside the story itself. Intention to provide audience with the ability to touch them and look at them from very closely, together with the fact of the space being staged as chamber theatre, brought up the importance of the props being minutiously made and adorned.