In keeping with the artistic vision to capture the time period in which Lewis wrote the story of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I wanted to capture some rough styles of the 1940s/50s era, and the types of fabrics that the British are known for - plaids, tweeds, etc. As having lived in Britain for part of my life, it was interesting to research these various styles and design costumes with that inspiration.
I have used these various fabrics as a base costume for the cast when they are Londoners at the beginning of the show, and later as the characters in the story who are on Aslan's side in Narnia. I also had to keep in mind costume changes onstage and actors playing multiple characters, which is a standard consideration and added challenge for any 9th Hour ensemble theatre production.
In my imagination the animals are hiding and not trying to be seen by the witch. I didn't want them to be flashy like the witch.
For simplicity, I divided the Narnian characters into good ones and bad ones. The ghouls and hags (part of the White Witch's army) are in shades of shiny-ish greys that reflect back to the Dwarf's costume, which reflects back to the White Witch's costume.
I designed Fenris Ulf (Captain of the Witch's Secret Police), along with the other wolves to be wearing ball caps, as if trying to hide their identity, and working sort of anonymously for the Witc-... I mean Queen. It sort of came from the idea of someone caught on camera robbing a store with a ball cap pulled low over their face so as to attempt to hide their identity, or to provide some sort of anonymity like a uniformed soldier in an army. I needed the wolves in some fur of course, in order to resemble wolves. I tried to get the lightest and stretchiest fabric I could find so that they are able to move easily on stage, in such a physically demanding production.
I wanted to capture some rough styles of the 1940s/50s era and the types of fabrics that the British are known for - plaids, tweeds...
As for the Narnians that follow Aslan, I wanted to use colours and matte types of fabrics that reflect back to Aslan's colours and matte appearance (the puppet designed by Grace Solman in 2014). I wanted all the Narnian animals in Aslan's cohort to have their own unique looks but similar in aesthetic. In my imagination the animals are hiding and not trying to be seen by the witch. I didn't want them to be flashy like the witch.
For the characters that interact with the Pevensie children directly, such as Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, and Mr. Tumnus, I gave them some extra little touches that tie into the overall design for the Narnian animals.
Without the generosity of these people, many of the costumes could not have been realized fully.
I come from a background of enjoying live performances and the uniqueness each of them brings. I am not an actor but have been involved in the performance world for a lot of my adult life behind the scenes. I understand a lot of the creative process and the preception of the finished product, including how all the design elements tie together. I am always willing to think outside the box and try new things. Of course, some of these new things work, while others don't. But, that is the creative process.
I am grateful for the the people who have donated fabric and provided discounts on fabric that we could never have afforded as a charity. I am extremely grateful for the gift of money from a colleague so that I could buy a new machine (much like Mrs. Beaver being gifted one by Father Christmas in the story). Using this new machine, I was able to make many new costumes and adapt many existing ones from my 2018 design. Without the generosity of these people, many of the costumes could not have been realized fully.
I am very thankful for the support and vision of the Artistic Director, Jonathan Harris, and the rest of the artistic and production teams, and all their hard work spanning over many months. I hope all goes well with the production and that they enjoy telling this beautiful story.
I also hope that the audience enjoys seeing and hearing this beautiful story through the magic of theatre and appreciates my contribution of costume creations.
RUTH ALLISON is resident Costume Designer for 9th Hour Theatre Company and Costume Deisgner for the 2018 and 2023 productions of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Ruth also owns a design and up-cylcing business "Melody's Fabric Re-Creations".