Cunning little costumes

11 May 2017

Tony Award-winning costume designer and legend of the West End Roger Kirk (The King and I, 42nd Street) returns to Victorian Opera for Cunning Little Vixen.

Roger Kirk's costume design for the Fox Children

The production reunites him with director and frequent collaborator, Stuart Maunder, having last worked together on Victorian Opera’s Sweeney Todd. On this production, they venture far from Dickensian London and deep into the woods.

Janácek's charming opera is set against the backdrop of a forest, as we witness the juxtaposition of human and animal life. Past design approaches to the production have varied broadly, and Kirk had one note: 'Stuart said don’t make it look like Cats!'

'The approach was to find things that make the costumes look animal-like, without necessarily being one. For instance, you imagine a child in yellow and black stripes and immediately think of a bee. You start with a football jersey, add badminton racquets and you’ve got wings. I looked to a lot of existing fashions, pieces with a fur trim for instance.'

Roger Kirk's costume design for the Forester and the Fox

'Take a look at our Fox (Antoinette Halloran). It’s a wool suit with a check waistcoat. I’m not doing the tails though, as was originally sketched. The trick will be making sure Antoinette doesn’t look too feminine, wearing a low heel if any for instance.'

The human world, drawn from '20s and '30s style, will remain monochromatic and stark in comparison to the vibrancy and colour variation drawn from the natural world. 'We need a clear distinction between the worlds on stage and colour is the perfect way to achieve that, in this instance.'

Roger Kirk's costume design for the Grasshopper and Little Vixen Hen

'The chickens are white and red. We’ve found all kinds of materials to build them from: corsets, skirts, mesh tops and knotted fabric to create chicken feathers. They still need more feathers to make it look fluffier. The grasshopper is simple: green jeans, a green puffer jacket, a tailcoat as well the accessories. There are very few green puffer jackets on the market, so we’re making one in the workshop at the moment.'

'It’s just as well I started out on Playschool. It’s proved perfect training for the way I need to think about designing these costumes!'

Cunning Little Vixen was part of Victorian Opera's Season 2017.

Designs © Roger Kirk