As I mentioned in my previous post I recently worked with Three’s a Crowd’s production of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I started out just working on the costume team, but soon enough I had been recruited to the props team too.
The costumes were pretty easy for this show. The head of costume was amazing at putting bits and bobs together to create the looks for each character, so there wasn’t too much for me to do costume wise. I think my favourite costume piece I made was a quick bonnet from a straw hat I found at the op shop. It was by no means perfect, but it worked!
The props were a different matter. Because of the small budget we had to get very creative. It turns out I love doing props about as much as I love doing costumes! There’s a decent amount of cross over between the two, so it’s not too surprising. I like to think of props as the bridge between costume and set.
We begged, borrowed, and made (no stealing here!) what we could and bought what we couldn’t. Even the bits we bought were usually fancied up in some way or another to turn them from shop fresh to stage ready. An excellent example of this is the plastic gun I bought and turned it into a prop which people thought I had hired. Not bad for $2.50 and a lick of paint, even if I do say so myself!
The gun also originally had a rather silly sounding clicker in it which I took out. I didn’t think a comical clicker would be very helpful in a dramatic scene.
I think my favourite (and most irritating) prop to make in the whole show was Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir. The props team and I found some glass bottles which were the right size and had corks in them just like we needed. I spent some time before bed one night designing the label for the bottles, which were printed out and stuck on. I made sure to do that after the elixir was put in. I’m glad to say we didn’t follow Pirelli’s original recipe!
It turned out the corks had some holes in them so they wicked the liquid to the surface. The liquid inside ended up going everywhere and because of the dye in it, it stained! It leaked down a couple of the bottles dying the labels, and got on some of the actors hands. Thankfully it didn’t end up going on any costumes. We came up with a solution pretty quickly – beeswax on the corks to seal them.
I melted some beeswax and soaked the corks in it which made them practically hydrophobic . Unfortunately some of them still somehow sucked the liquid up between the cork and the neck of the bottle. Luckily there was still some beeswax left, so I melted it up and sealed the whole top of the bottle, cork and all.
I also made a box for the elixir out of some book board which I painted up to look like wood. It took me ages to cut the box pieces out. I used my jewellers saw and the tiny saw blades kept snapping. I went through more cutting out this than I did in my whole second year of jewellery!
It was made to basically be like a cigarette girl’s tray. It was held up with a nice wide ribbon around our Toby’s neck.
This is how it looked all put together. I love it so much!
My work with the props and costumes wasn’t restricted to pre-opening night. I ended up working backstage with the assistant stage manager making sure the props and costumes were where they needed to be. I adored this job! I discovered that being backstage at a show is where I feel home. It didn’t matter how tired I was, or how close to breaking point I was (short lead-up times with lots of props to make puts a lot of pressure on!) being backstage seemed to recharge my batteries. I even enjoyed the quick changes! There’s something wonderful about finishing a quick change in less than the allotted time.
There was the only downside with working backstage – I didn’t get to see the production. Ah well. Backstage for life!
I had a fantastic time working on Sweeney Todd. I hope anyone who came along enjoyed it.
Until next time xx
I'm Beth the human behind Little Grassbird. Welcome!