'I'm overwhelmed by the building's beauty' S a fashion designer who was; One of the country's top designers has been creating the costumes to help celebrate the centenary of a Welsh theatre. Karen Price asks Paul Shriek how he incorporated its history into the fabric.
AS a fashion designer who was renowned for his outrageous statement clothing, Paul Shriek was often labelled the "enfant terrible" of the industry.
But since the early days of his career, he's gone on to make a name for himself as an international theatre designer, working with renowned companies like Welsh National Opera, National Dance Company Wales, Scottish Dance Theatre and The Ballet Boyz.
Now he's been commissioned to create the costumes for a special production at Treorchy's Parc and Dare Theatre, which will celebrate the building's centenary.
Flights of Fancy will take audiences on a 100-year journey through the venue's history before propelling them into the future. And the elaborate costumes worn by the dancers, singers and musicians will feature images associated with the area throughout the decades.
"This is a real opportunity to help a community celebrate a building," says Shriek, who first visited the Parc and Dare last October.
"I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it. It felt very nostalgic for me as I was brought up in a mining town in Northumberland and watched buildings like that being destroyed over the years. But people in Treorchy still have their building and they can still go there to escape from everyday life and celebrate."
Shriek has collaborated with the show's artistic director Phil Williams many times in the past so the men know how each other operate.
"We understand each other and have an empathy for each other's work and trust each other."
The first half of the production is divided into five segments which each honour a period of 20 years, starting with 1913, when the theatre opened, to 1933. And for each era, the costumes have been created from fabric featuring digital images from that time. Shriek worked closely with digital designer Matt Fox on his creations.
"From 1913 to 1933, there was the suffragette movement, World War I and notable pit disasters in the area. It's very important to remember those people who lost their lives as many of them would have helped build the theatre. So the fabric prints include images of Welshmen who fought in the war but didn't come back. They're very poignant. We've used 21st century technology to recreate 20th century images."
The first section features a group of older performers - two in their 90s.
"When I first saw them in rehearsal it was heart-wrenching - they really take you on a journey."
Hollywood glamour is a big focus in the 1933-53 segment and many of these costumes were made by students at Coleg Morgannwg. "The first part is all about escapism and black and white glamour but during the latter part of that time, the country was at war. So Matt created prints all based on Hollywood but when you look closely at the costume fabric you can see planes dropping bombs."
Shriek describes the 1953-73 highlights as "David Bowie meets Christian Dior".
"It's more of an early '70s section with a nod to '50s styling," he says, pointing out it features plenty of denim fabric.
The next 20 years mark everything from the pit closures to the '80s pop slogan "Frankie Says Relax".
"All the kids taking part are wearing T-shirts with Frankie-type slogans saying things like 'Coal Not Dole'. We are looking in from the outside at what's happened to a community. I know how bad the '80s were. I opened a shop and had to close it because all of the mining communities around Newcastle had no money."
The final section - 1993 to 2013 - has a strong focus on today.
"It was almost the most difficult one to do," admits Shriek. "Because the Parc and Dare has been used while filming Doctor Who we thought we'd go into the future and give it an almost robotic feel."
Flights of Fancy is a co-production by RCT Theatres, National Dance Company Wales and Welsh National Opera's community department, WNO Max and features a wealth of community performers as well as music by composer Jak Poore. Audiences will be seated on the theatre's stage and watch as the performance unfolds in the main auditorium. The second half of the show takes an abstract look at the theme of flight, just as the title suggests.
"We wanted something a bit more celestial and the fabric print is based on a Michelangelo painting and it has a Kill Bill styling," he says of the Quentin Tarantino film.
Shriek and his team have been working on the costumes from his studio in Newcastle and he's now looking forward to seeing the reaction of audiences.
"It has a grandiose feel as the building in really grand inside. Hopefully we have been able to deliver that message." | Flights of Fancy is at the Parc and Dare Theatre, Treorchy from May 14 to 18. For tickets, call 08000 147 111 or visit www.rct-arts.co.uk A BUILDING FOR EVERYONE Built in 1892 to the designs of architect Jacob Rees, the Parc and Dare began its life as a workingmen's library and institute.
The workers of the Parc and the Dare Collieries funded the building by donating a penny from each pound of their wages.
In the early 20th century, work began on the Parc and Dare Hall, adding a large theatre. In 1913 the theatre was completed.
Due to the declining popularity of theatre and the emergence of cinema, by 1920 a cinema screen was installed. In 1930, the first "talkie" picture to be screened was The Broadway Melody, and people flocked from miles around to hear this innovation.
In the '70s, the theatre was in such a state of disrepair that it faced closure. The Parc and Dare Workmen's Institute Committee donated the building to the then Rhondda Borough Council.
Today the Park and Dare Theatre is still used as a functioning theatre and cinema.
Most theatre productions tend to be locally produced, though the venue is used by touring musicians and comedians, and over the years it has hosted the likes of Max Boyce, Ken Dodd and The Kinks' Ray Davies.
In 2007, the Parc and Dare was used in filming Doctor Who.
Left, Paul Shriek with one of the elaborate costumes featured in Flights of Fancy. Above, the designer has enjoyed capturing the history of Treorchy in his designs
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||May 10, 2013|
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