Updated: Nov 4, 2021
Fibre artist extraordinaire Marjolein Dallinga recently collaborated on a production of Eugene Ionesco’s Les Chaises, a co-production by Montreal’s Théâtre du Nouveau Monde and Théâtre des Fonds de Tiroirs staring Monique Miller and Gilles Renaud. The play runs from May 8th to June 2nd, 2018.
Eugene Ionesco’s Les Chaises is considered a tragic, absurdist farce. Set in a post apocalyptic era, it follows two characters known as the Old Man and the Old Woman as they prepare chairs for guests coming to hear about a big discovery the Old Man has made. The play deals with themes of isolation, time, language and mortality.
Marjolein is well known for her theatrical collaborations. Her costumes and costume parts are designed and created for clients such as Cirque du Soleil and the movie industry.
Recently we talked to her about her latest endeavour.
How did you become involve with Theatre Nouveau’s production of Les Chaises ?
The costume designer Linda Brunelle, who was in charge of the costumes for this production, I have worked for in the past. She had a very specific idea that the costumes should be about the material which would look distressed and used. She wanted it all to be about the material. She also wanted a handmade look and a material which has a strong relation to our skin. So “ felt “ was quite close to this image. The six costumes for this show are mostly felted, one is knitted. I worked together with Lilian Kruip who did the knitting and helped me with the assembly of the felted costumes. I have met Lilian on the CDS (Cirque du Soleil) she is an amazing craft person and has also done work for Linda in the past.
What were the challenges of creating costumes for this piece? Did the director have a look in mind or was there a lot of brainstorming. The felt makes the costumes look antiquated was that on purpose?
I have worked often with Lilian and we are good friends so working together is quite amazing. We are really collaborative and work fast. In the beginning it was all quite open so I started making experiments with the images Linda gave me. The clothes had to look as if they had a lot of wear and tear which goes with the personages of the piece “les Chaises “ written by Ionesco. It is also a very absurd piece for example there are felted breasts felted in the dresses , but they are hidden under the decorations.
The challenge was that Linda wanted the felt, but the director and the actors were all worried it would be dull, heavy and too warm. Linda was very exited about the first tests and had no trouble persuading the director, which was great. He is quite adventurous . I insisted doing a prototype to give them a better idea how a felted dress can look. I was lucky that my friend Renate Maile Moskowtiz came for a short visit she is an amazing Felter and we had great fun to get those red breasts well in place. Linda loved the prototype but the director wanted and darker and more melancholic look ,and he choose to have it all inside out. Now the most beautiful parts are hidden ,which is quite interesting idea too.
You have to be able to really work for somebody and be obedient because theatre is quite hierarchical , the director always has the last word . The drawings were changed and then I had to start the production. The time was limited which is often the case . It took three full weeks to do all the pieces and all the accessories, which they decided would be all felted too. I assembled all with Lilian who is a professional seamstress to get perfect fitting for the actors. We did most of the sewing by hand. It all looks quite dark, distressed and strangely dramatic.
Theatre is such a collaborative medium. Is this what you enjoy about this kind of work? If yes, why? What else attracts you.
It was pure collaboration which is special in the mostly competitive art world. I love working together and when you get the trust and respect it really works magical. I feel we all come to greater things when this happens. I love doing things I would never choose myself, it challenges me and it might even influence me further on. These costumes are truly tailored felt and I had never done one to that extreme before.
Have you received feedback from the actors about there costumes?
Yes, they all had the worries that it would be too hot, too heavy, too uncomfortable, itchy etc. but when we did the dress rehearsal, they were really persuaded and very surprised. The actor loved the suit, which is quite light and flexible .The main actress was quite relieved that it was well fitted and comfortable .
How is creating a costume for a theatre production different from a performance or circus costume?
You have a lot more freedom because the performance is not so extreme, I believe that felt is a lot more suitable for theatre productions.
What’s next for you?
I started working for my next solo show next year in November in Halifax for the Nova Scotia Contemporary Craft Center.
I got a grant to do this show which makes me very proud. I want to make a whole new body of work and a short movie for this show. I am very happy with this opportunity since I was looking for a place to do a solo show in Canada which is after all my new country .