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Get Merry at the Gryphon

Get Merry at the Gryphon

With a bit of gathering here and some boning there, renowned costumier James Kelly is breathing life into the costumes worn by the title characters in Shakespeare’s comedy, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

And he makes it look so easy.

Stagecraft Theatre and director Ewen Coleman are bringing this hilarious middle-class English farce to the Gryphon.

In The Merry Wives of Windsor, audiences are invited to follow the infamously unapologetic and unruly character Falstaff as he searches for money and love, and ultimately gets more than he bargained for.

Ewen and the team were lucky enough to secure the costuming talents of James Kelly, who moved to Wellington from London in 2016 and is working as a costumier for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

While his busy working life would deter many from taking on more of the same after hours, James says that working on the costumes for Stagecraft’s The Merry Wives of Windsor in his spare time wasn’t a challenge. In fact, it was a pleasure.

“When you love what you do, it’s a natural choice to do as much of it as you can.”

"I've always known this is what I wanted to do," he explains. "I love making costumes, I always have. I still get emotional at every opening night, when I see all the hard work come together onstage.”

James has made three costumes for the show: those of the two ‘Merry Wives’; Mistresses Ford and Page, as well as Anne Page.

James says he’s enjoyed the creative freedom of working on this Stagecraft production.

“With ballet, the costumes have to allow for a huge range of movement, so you can’t be precious about period accuracy. Although the intimacy of the Gryphon brings new challenges because the audience is so close.”

He is modest about his work, but James has already made a mark for himself in New Zealand, and the actors in The Merry Wives of Windsor are effusive about his talents.

Julia Harris plays Mistress Page, who is wooed by the irrepressible Falstaff. She describes the dress that James has made for her as “splendiferous”.

“It feels truly glorious. There’s something very special about having something made especially for you. And because it’s a period costume with a full skirt, voluminous petticoats and a boned bodice, you have to stand and walk differently. It really helps you slide into the character and the period.”

James explains it best: “When you make a costume just right, it allows the actor to be the character they are meant to be.”

This is obviously something that James excels at, because applying a similar principle to his own personal dressmaking business, James Kelly Couture, has seen his demand grow rapidly, especially for custom-made wedding dresses.

The Merry Wives of Windsor is on at the Gryphon Theatre on Guzhnee Street from the 15th - 25th March, playing 10 shows. Tickets cost $25 and shows start at 7.30pm, with earlier performances on the 21st and 22nd and a matinee on Sunday 19th.

Tickets are available at iTicket.co.nz or by calling 0508 iTICKET (484-253).

[Ends]


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