One of the ‘simple pleasures’ of working on the Silent Eye workshops is that I get to fulfil my dream to run a wardrobe and props department. I love the challenges of making things work. Most of the time, we choose, as a friend of the School put it, to represent, rather than recreate. But that is usually a practical decision rather than through lack of research. The costumes and props are not a necessity… they are not why we produce these workshops; they are simply there to encourage the imagination to immerse itself in a time and place not of this time and, very often, not of this world.
But, it has to be said, finding solutions to knotty problems is fun. In Leaf and Flame, for example, we had to behead and axe-wielding green giant. Not only that, but he then had to pick up his head and walk, offering its contents to the assembled Companions.
We managed the beheading with shadows cast on a screen, a realistic ‘thwack’ from a wet towel for when the blow fell and a bouncing football for the fallen head. And, if the Companions in the temple laughed when said football hit the ground a little too late… for which I take the blame… they were not laughing when our now-headless giant reappeared, head in hands quite literally, to say, “Pick a card, any card…”
Many of the Companions bring their own costumes to add to the atmosphere and we never manage to get pictures of most of them as we do not take cameras into the temple… at least not until the end.
This time, the costumes we put together were, for the most part, completely inaccurate from a historical perspective, apart from Anu and the Serpent, but wholly suggestive of the era we wanted to recreate. The temple we dressed in rich colours with a symbolic design that, we hoped, would become clear as the weekend progressed. My kitchen had, for quite some time, become more of a workshop than a culinary laboratory and my garden shed became a spray booth. I must have the only gold-plated lawnmower in the village. It is just a shame it doesn’t really work…
An embroidery frame and wedding cake dowel made the sceptre of Gilgamesh. Enkidu’s boomerang was a child’s wooden toy, duly gilded. The Voice of Destiny mask, which I was dreading trying to make, was a breeze once I’d realised that pasta made superb curls for its beard. A plant pot, also gilded, with a home-made lid, made our brewing vat for Shiduri the ale-wife, and a plant pot was pressed into service for the crown of the god Anu.
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