July 1, 2014
PRODUCTION DESIGNER, SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY
Alice Babidge is the talented production designer behind Company B’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Opera Australia’s critically acclaimed 2013 production of Ring Cycle, and Sydney Theatre Company’s The Maids, The White Guard and The War of the Roses to name a mere few.
Self described as ‘bolshie’ and ‘ambitious’, Alice is equal parts humility and virtuoso – her passion for the job is tangible as she leads us through rooms of chairs, racks of costumes and rows of shoes in the burrows of the Sydney Theatre Company.
Five words that describe you…
Paranoid. Bolshie. Funny (?). Ambitious. Gentle.
Describe how a costume goes from sketch to show? What is the creative and collaborative process for yourself and the team?
My process shifts and changes with each project. One of the most important things my collaborators and I need to do is find a shared language. Once this is in place it is easier to understand the kind of work that we are all trying to make. The conversations open up, the experiments begin, imagery is passed around. Slowly this all comes together to form something more solid, something tangible, something that hopefully tells the right story and creates a world as a whole. The clothes are just a small part of this. Sometimes they take the form of a drawing, sometimes a conversation, sometimes a description of someone seen on the street or remembered from the past. I consider the character and the clothes to be the same thing. They so deeply inform each other that they need to be created in the same way to the rest of the work.
Is this a similar process for set design? How do the two processes differ?
The set is very similar. It needs the same integrity as the clothes but can hold more ambiguity. I am not so interested in real spaces on stage but I am interested in real clothes. For me, the conversations between these two opposing elements is the clearest way to draw a world and tell a story.
What would you say makes a great costume?
Truthfulness. Even with the most outrageous. It has to have its own sense of integrity. The actor has to believe it. I’m not up there convincing the audience it is right, they are. If they don’t believe it, believe me, believe what we are trying to say, then it’s not a great costume.
What has been inspiring you lately?
More and more at the moment, classicism in all its forms. The deepest and most traditional of oil paintings, the most pompous of musical composition, so real they seem unreal, marble sculptures, the grandest and most crumbling architecture. It’s something about timelines, austerity, ritual and form.
Costume and fashion are such transformative vehicles – how does being a costume designer make you more conscious of how you style yourself day to day?
Once I was crazy. I wore everything. All the time. Nuts. Amazing. Getting dressed excited me. Now, I wear black. Or navy. Or denim. Or white. All the time. Clean, neat, sharp – kind of, my version of. I spend so much time looking at things for others, choosing, working on, dressing – I need to be more neutral. I stand in front of mirrors with actors for hours in a day, I need to fade into nothing in those moments. I don’t like to distract myself or the people I am working with.
Can you share what you are working on currently or what is coming up for you this year?
I am in the 3rd week of rehearsals for Macbeth at the Sydney Theatre Company. I am trying to finish designing Cyrano de Bergerac for the same company, due to start rehearsing in September just after I get back from a quick trip to New York where I have to install and open a show I designed last year called The Maids. I have just begun researching for a film I am designing called Holding the Man – one of the greatest love stories I have ever known – and I am considering learning some Dutch for the end of the year when I am spending a few months in Amsterdam working on a new production of Medea. It sounds busy. It kind of is. In a good way.
What piece of work or production are you most proud of you?
I love my job. I love that I am allowed to do it every day. That I am lucky enough to. This makes me proud.
What is your daily uniform?
Black jeans. Black buttondown. Chanel flats. Leather jacket. This week. Let’s be honest, it varies.
What is your style pet peeve?
Bootcut anything. Knits with zips or men who wear white socks with dark shoes. I’m looking at you Dad…