NUTCRACKER COSTUMES: THE MAGICIAN

Posted on 16 August 2019 By Rose Mulready

This week, we sneaked down to our wardrobe department to peek at the costumes for our upcoming production of The Nutcracker, and hear some stories about the way they were made. First up: the coat for Herr Drosselmeyer, the magician who gives Clara her Nutcracker doll and whose enchantments transform her house. He's a mysterious and shadowy figure who commands the stage. We mostly see him in his magician's cloak, but the coat beneath is worth a closer look. It's also one of the most labour-intensive costumes in Nutcracker (it took longer to make than the tutu for the Sugar Plum Fairy!) Here's why.

Drosselmeyer's coat uses an amazing 10 metres of ottoman silk - that's the sort of silk used in the waistcoat of an old-fashioned three-piece suit. The designer John Macfarlane created a stunning pattern of chevrons that interleaves the ottoman silk with hand-painted panée velvet.

Photography Kate Longley

According to the head of our costume workshop, Musette Molyneaux, working with velvet is like 'befriending an animal. Each velvet is different, and the nap wants to be worked with in different ways: it's like a live thing, you have to get to know it." When the velvet is hand-painted, its behaviour can change all over again. It also marks when it's tacked. The costumiers working on the coats spent a lot of time practising with offcuts of the velvet and silk, trying to work out the best way to fit them together in the chevron pattern. The coats themselves each took a full month to make.

Photography Kate Longley

The back of the coat has deep inserts to give it that late-Victorian, early-Edwardian frock-coat fullness. The coat has deep pockets to assist with the magic tricks that the Drosselmeyer dancers perform on stage.

Photography Kate Longley

Drosselmeyer orchestrates Clara's dream journey, introducing her to the exotic inhabitants of the Land of Sweets. In his silk-and-velvet finery, he fits right in.

Brooke Lockett and Brett Simon. Photography Lynette Wills