Issue 227
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'Fast-paced' is a phrase used to describe many a show. But Bryony Lavery's new stage production of Brighton Rock includes 48 scenes, across 25 locations, and only three members of the cast don't need sketches to explain their many costume (and character) changes. There's even a change that takes place centre of the Rep's stage, so quick is the turnaround. We've been speaking to Sara Perks, the costume and set designer tasked with making it all work. Costume and set design. Like one isn't enough. 
So you got the job (or should we say "jobs"?). What happened next?
I live in south London, so I had the luxury of a jaunt down to Brighton and actually read the script, and half of Graham Greene's book on which the play is based, sitting on the seafront. We were lucky enough to have three days of R&D on this project, and one of the things I brought to that meeting was a newspaper cutting I've been holding onto for twenty years [pictured above]. It was a double-page spread with the burnt out shell of the West Pier, appearing like a skeleton of the past, and everyone loved it. We used it as the backdrop for the entire show. Being a practical designer, and thinking about how many locations we had to cover off in the play — from bedsits, to pubs, to voice recording boxes, I tried hard to come up with even more coherent possibilities, but we always came back to that cutting. That pier. It's such a strong, iconic motif and very appropriate as a backdrop for what we're doing with the piece, which is about the seedy, underside and fallen grandeur of Brighton.
Perhaps the most iconic character is Pinkie. He's such a pivotal part of the tale, how did you help show this through costume?
His scar is critical — it was in my original sketch [pictured, first] and as well as looking sinister, is important as an outward manifestation of his journey. How far Pinkie's descending; a physical showing of the guilt and sin that he can't escape. Practically, the whole cast do their own makeup on tour and actor Jacob James Beswick had to learn how to create the scar himself, so that it could be seen at the back of the auditorium without looking ridiculous — there was plenty of trial and error as well as a masterclass from a makeup artist.

Costume-wise, I needed to make Pinkie stand out. I did this by selecting a slimmer fitting suit for him, and chopping his trousers so they’re a bit shorter than the rest of his gang. It looks vintage, modern and youthful, which is so important as Pinkie is only 17 in the story, heading up a gang including 50-year-olds. We were really pleased with the effect and settled on the first suit he tried.

Finally, we got Pinkie a “Peaky Blinders” cut, as the barber called it — a severe short back and sides, which emphasises Jacob’s cheekbones and makes him look even stronger and seriously noire. Though Brighton Rock is set in the thirties, and Peaky Blinders starts in the twenties, it's such an identifiable look right now and immediately helps the audience to clock Pinkie.
There are so many characters in Brighton Rock, how do you manage the costume changes?
But for the three leads, every actor plays quite a variety of different roles. There isn’t enough time to do a full costume change at any point in the production, so I ‘design the track’, as we call it, of all the other cast members. The sketches above show the first half of actor Jenny Jackson’s tracking — what she’s wearing at the beginning of the show, what she then puts on and takes off, right down to whether she should be wearing tights or a hat. The wrap around dress [pictured second] is actually secured with magnets, over the coat next to it. Jenny goes from being a bubbly girl, to a gang member, on stage, in seconds. To achieve this particular costume change, all it takes is for someone to stand behind the sitting girl and grab at her waist. As Jenny stands up, the dresses come off revealing the double-breasted gang jacket. And there hasn’t even been a wardrobe malfunction yet from the briefings I've received!
How do you source costumes?
I've got a costume designer, cutter and maker all helping to achieve my designs but the costumes come from all sorts of places. I was at a big old antique fair up in Newark shopping for a completely different show and spotted an antique textiles stall. There, hanging up, was the most fabulous leopard print coat, that was almost identical to the one I had drawn for Ida, the lead character. It was like there was a halo around it saying 'please buy me', and I did, after some haggling of course.

The palette for this production is charcoal and noire but Ida wears a striking red dress. This is a very deliberate framing device for the whole piece. The story, the set and the costumes remain largely dark throughout the play, allowing the audience to track colourful Ida, who is narratively and aesthetically this beacon in the middle of the production.
From April 10 to 14 at The Rep. Tickets are from £15.

WIN A MEAL FOR 4


Money can't buy friendship, so the saying goes, but this won't cost you a penny. Sign up to Sabai Sabai's newsletter (at the bottom of their homepage) and you could win an all-singing-all-dancing Thai meal for you and three chums at their new city centre venue, on Waterloo St. That's starters, mains, desserts and a cocktail each. No need to leave your money-saving opportunity to luck either, because Sabai Sabai are also selling their cocktails at Thai prices for Songkran (Thai New Year) on April 13. That's £5 not £9 for a Thai Star Martini, Oriental Bellini or a Bangkok Fizz.

'SLEEPY' WITH ADDED CREEPY


Dedicating a festival to taxes would be rather unlikely to land you a spot in ICB. Over a fortnight talking about life's other certainty has however properly piqued our interest. This year's Matter of Life and Death Festival includes death cafes, crema-tour-iums (geddit?), a guided exploration of death from the Barber Institute and all sorts of things you can go to, with the end as their beginning. Tickets are now on sale to an absolutely-will-sell-out movie-eat-along by that dark, clever, really really dark, Annabel de Vetton's Conjurer's Kitchen. Did we mention she's dark? On May 10, nibble along to Tim Burton’s cult gothic horror Sleepy Hollow while working out what horrors de Vetton is serving up. She always leaves her precise menu as a surprise to event-goers but above is a chocolate skull (or twenty) she made earlier.

MAKING DREAMS, AND... TERRARIUMS


This is the year our house becomes the beauteous looking thing it was born to be, because we're actually going to learn things, then act on them. Interiorsy things. First on the colour-coded, tabbed agenda a lesson in botanicals. Local lovelies, Bloom Collective will tell you exactly how to create a profesh looking encased scene (like the one pictured) which will be yours for keeps. At 1pm on April 20 in the MADE showroom, this folium-fingered workshop is one of a number of seminars and learny sort of events happening on Level 1 of the Mailbox (yes, where Heal's is) as part of its homewares do-whop, which is from April 20 to 22. Get glued to their website for more announcements. 
 

FILM OF THE WEEK: LOVE, SIMON


Here’s a movie that’s not going to win any awards and isn’t exactly blazing any new paths for l’art du cinema, but in its own way is quietly revolutionary. We’re happy to be proven wrong, but we’re pretty sure this is the first teen romcom from a major Hollywood studio where the main character is gay. The Simon of the title finds himself corresponding online with another closeted student at his school – but who is he? Shaving off the pain and trauma many might remember from their teenage years to present a warm world where everybody is gorgeous and loves each other, this is as much a fantasy as any Marvel film, but who cares? Lord knows we need an escape these days.Times & trailer
 

Venue: BoneHead, 8 Lower Severn Street, B1 1PU; Website
Choice: The dips! Oh, the dips. Chooser: Our table, unanimously

Eating well is a joy — sometimes an eye-closing, finger sucking, audible noises level of joy. Eating less than well, or knowing there's some little extra that can move the whole experience to an eleven, well, it can make us knife-and-fork-down kind of frantic. So listen up. BoneHead's doing really good beer, in an unusually city-centric location for the style of food, and when you look around the completely-full-by-6pm restaurant, you feel good about every decision that got you inside. The menu is all about chicken — wings, burgers, and free range Cotswold fried chicken, with plenty of specials in the offing, like the Korean fried burger with kimchee that was the winner, winner, of this particular chicken dinner. Until we asked for dips, and we asked the kitchen to go big. Expecting some jazzed up ketchup, what we got was eight wondrous condiments, from a green chilli concoction, to the house comeback sauce, to something red and spicy and sweet and perfect — a sample of the 25 sauces BoneHead is in the process of perfecting. With the sort of second wind that would have made other diners gorp if they hadn't been so busy doing their own devouring, we plunged everything left on the table into those little pots of jubilation. Long story short, ask for sauces. Menu

WHERE THE WILD THINGS WENT 


The Wilderness v1.5 opened up in the JQ yesterday with what its most estimable chef and founder, Alex Claridge, is describing as his "best food ever". Expect snacks like the Big Mac — a Welsh wagyu bavette tartare with gherkin ketchup and aged parmesan custard. The bad news? You basically can't get a table til May. The good news? You can get a table in May! Other good news comes in the form of Nocturnal Animals, the project the team'll be launching on its Bennett's Hill site this summer. We can't say anything else, because Alex said he'd kill us in a tone which indicated this to be the opposite of a joke, but you'll like it.
Shorty got low, low, low, low, low, low. Okay, Shorty didn't. But Andy did. And he got slow. And he took his low and his slow to Digbeth Dining Club for a residency, from today.
Escape Hunt's first UK escapery is open on Corporation Street. Save your country from Nazi invasion, or escape a fate worse than death and play at samurais.
Edinburgh Gin is on dinns at BMAG's Edwardian Tea Rooms on June 9, being MY BIRTHDAY, and World Gin Day. It's £85 a spot (to the dinner, you can't come to my bday).
Dig Brew Co, tomorrow night from 6pm. Art and pizza and beer and pizza, but mainly art. 
To be in with a chance of winning a pair of return flights to New York or Toronto direct from BHX head here.


"Heaven was a word: hell was something he could trust." 


Graham Greene, Brighton Rock


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WORDS: Katy Drohan, Tom Cullen, Andrew Lowry
PICTURES: Karl Andre Photography (Brighton Rock), Lila Wesolowska (Terrarium workshop)

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