Monday, June 21, 2010

Fringe Costume Thoughts: Initial Reactions on Thursday's Shows

Call me a snob. You won't be the first. I love good design. I love good craftsmanship. Most importantly, I love when it seems that people have put thought and care into what they put on their bodies.

I also love theatre. I love when a show's costume design doesn't distract me from the show itself. I love when the costumes are appropriate to the place and time of a show.

And I hate hate hate hate hate when costumes are poorly executed. Avant garde shouldn't be code for looking cheap.

I've been to see a lot of shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and I am sad to say that there are only a smattering of them whose costumes didn't downright make me angry.

The first show I saw was The Last Goddamn Performance Piece, which is a send-up of performance art in general. While I get what they were doing with their costumes (plain black movement wear), I was more than a little disappointed that the female performer's shirt had a visible stain on the front. It distracted me the whole show. (You can read Andrew Snowdon's full review of the piece here.)

Next up on Thursday night was The Rooftop Guy, a piece which takes place in a government office. While the costumes were generally pretty spot-on (especially the character of Jason, whose mismatched shirt and tie paired with his horrible green and yellow leather jacket perfectly portrayed a young man in an adult world who doesn't know how to cope with aging), one of the major plot points in the script is the fact that Dave is wearing a fish tie.

Which was... Handmade? I guess? Poorly. It can't be that hard to find a fish tie! (I just did a Google search for "fish tie" and came up with over 80,000 results.) Now, I understand that Fringe shows are on a budget. But the major turning point of the plot is about this tie. Come on, now... (Andrew's review for Fully Fringed is here.)

My blood really got boiling with Art DeXo, a modern dance piece. Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't know anything about modern dance, or dance wear, but I do know one thing: hems should be finished. Several of the costumes used in the piece had unfinished hems, or worse yet, little scraps of fabric with unfinished edges hanging off of them. While I understand that these little "beebobs" and "doodads" (as my mother would say) probably were meant to have some meaning and echoing the fluidity of the body and whatnot, most of the time I was left saying, "What?" Or worse yet, "Ugh, cut those things off."

Specifically, in one of the pieces lovely one-piece emerald green jumpers in drapey jersey have their flow and lined ruined by what looks like pieces of blue security blanket pinned (yes, that's right, pinned) to the hem. (Katrina Marsh writes more about Art DeXo here.)

Basically, what it all comes down to seems to be pride. If artists are putting enough time and pride into their piece to direct, preform, and in some cases write and tour a piece, it stands to reason that the way they present themselves onstage should also be a reflection of that. Thursday night left me with a bad taste in my mouth when it came to costumes.

Luckily, there are lots more nights of Fringe to write about...

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