What are the costumes looking like?


All aboard in shipshape fashion! My dedicated team of volunteers and I have been busily stitching

away to create costumes for the cast of Treasure Island. From my initial designs to the final fittings

we have been working hard to create a nautical 18 th century aesthetic.

The costuming process is now in its final stages, with a focus on alterations for size and additional

design features. We are particularly working on ‘breaking down’ the costumes, a technique used to

artificially age them with paint, dye and sandpaper. This gives the outfits a lived in feel and a sense

of history to the character.



Some of the more unusual costumes have required a lot of creative thinking and experimentation to

make. My favourites of these have been turning leather into wood and the giant masks of the

mystical island deity character ‘Davy Jones’. The masks had to be big and durable but also light and

easy to put on or take off, quite a challenge.

Elements of the costumes have had to change as the cast goes through rehearsals. Sometimes an

actor needs to move in a way we were not expecting, needs extra pockets for props or needs to

make a quick exit from one costume to another. All of these factors have to be taken into account

when making for a theatre production.

Although we still have plenty to do we are on track to create a fantastic collection of costumes which

I can’t wait to see in action.





Early on in rehearsals, we concentrated on working on smaller individual scenes and sections. Now we’re in week three and starting to stitch all the different elements together and then add in the music, movement and fights; of which there are many! It’s a roller coaster ride. My script is marked with notes like ‘pack quick change costume into bag’ or more cryptically ‘ship roll to starboard, wash 2,3,4, back to aft galley.’ There are days I honestly don’t remember writing the notes at all! But whenever I’m watching sections I’m not in, it’s so exciting, so while this is definitely the most challenging point of rehearsals, seeing it come together is such fun.

“From all the characters in the play, who would your character Snog/Marry/Avoid?

Snog. Marry. Avoid.

Well Isabella Hands has sailed the seven seas and has a man in every port so this is an apt question for her. That said she isn’t a woman to mix business with pleasure…
Smollett, too clever by half! There’s no leverage there and in Isabella’s opinion, Long John should be the Captain.  They are from different worlds and have totally opposing moral compasses. She just wants him out of the way so they can take control of the ship.
Initially I thought Black Dog because he is already under her power but actually she is a tactical woman and would be more likely to use her allure to get something she wants. She would aim at the person in control to wrestle power from them and since Captain Smollett is too sharp to notice any manipulations, I think the Squire would be her target. Being a rather proud man he’d be easy for Isabella to draw in and seduce. In a stolen moment he would fall for her charms and as their lips met she would take his map, his gold and his life.
Isabella is not a woman to settle down so this is hard but the one person she admires most on this boat is Long John Silver. He is clever, calculated and the power behind the pirate cause. If she married anyone it would have to be him, there is mutual respect and as much honesty as you’ll find amongst thieves.
Or… And this is a bit left field but…Mrs Livesey. Now stick with me here. Isabella has travelled the world and as a female mariner it is definitely a man’s world. Mrs Livesey is clearly intelligent and brave, qualities that are useful and admirable. And since Isabella has had any man she wanted and probably doesn’t think much of the male sex on a whole maybe she’d actually consider tying herself long term to a woman as bold as herself.  Admittedly it would take some effort to turn Mrs Livesey’s good nature and convince her to join the world of the Pirates (and Isabella is unlikely to give it up) but once she’d taught the good doctor how to hold a cutlass, I could imagine them adventuring across the globe together doing great feats of daring do.

Describe the musical world of the performance.


Our production of Much Ado About Nothing is set in early 20th century Italy and so we decided that the music should be traditional Italian with an early 20th century twist. The dance, for example, is loosely based on a traditional Italian folk tune, restructured and orchestrated to work for our purposes.

The songs are written specially for this production using the lyrics from the script with an extra song for Hero and Claudio’s first wedding, for which we used the words of a sonnet which we felt was particularly appropriate to their relationship. For Hero’s funeral I took inspiration from early Italian Renaissance sacred music which I hope brings a sense a solemnity and timelessness to the occasion.

Perhaps the most famous song in Much Ado About Nothing is “sigh no more”, in the first act, in our production sung by Margret. I hope that our version is wistful, pre-empting the fact that it is, in truth, a man rather than Hero who is the deceiver in this story.



“You multi-role in the show. Is it hard to play two contrasting characters?”


I’m playing Long John Silver and Blind Pew in the show (Plus a little two line cameo in the opening scene). Even though the two characters are both pirates, they have such a great contrast both vocally and physically that it’s easy to separate and define them.

One big help is that they appear in the show sequentially, so after I’ve done Pew, he’s gone and I can move onto Silver. I’ve played multi-roles in shows before where I’m constantly switching between characters and back again.

I love playing the characters, but it’s early days and they’re both still developing. Helpfully there are only 2 of them. I was in Cyrano de Bergerac a few years ago and played 12 parts (Including a nun)!

What drew you to audition for this part?

Initially I auditioned for the role of Billy Bones and Captain Smollett, knowing they’re slightly older than my casting, but I wanted to have the opportunity to jump into the world of piracy, in an outdoor promenade performance.
However being recalled for Jim was just a treat! A complete contrast to my last character who was a warlord. Jim is a young vibrant boy full of energy, and has an expansive imagination that is sensitive to everything. Who wouldn’t want the chance to jump at that!
Plus the opportunity to tell the story of a famous novel was an extra bonus.

Iris Theatre and its team received 4 Offie Nominations for Much Ado About Nothing. These are:

offie_nom_female offie_nom_director offie_nom_lighting offie_nom_set(1)

Best Female Performance – Anne-Marie Piazza
Best Director – Amy Draper
Best Lighting Designer – Benjamin Polya
Best Set Designer – Amber Scarlett

Opening night is always the cause of a variety of feelings.  We have been rehearsing for only 3 weeks and we are all pretty tired so any excitement is tempered by a certain level of exhaustion!  That said, our director Amy has provided such an easy blend of taskmaster (mistress?) and affable colleague that we really have had every chance to get ourselves fully prepared, so – no excuses!

As I approach our first night I feel a genuine sense of the excitement of being part of a team which is about to tell a fabulous story of love, both tragic and comic.  As the senior member of cast I have been dragged along at a hair-raising pace towards the starting line and the support of my young pals has been invaluable to me.  So – I think I’m ready and I know I shall feel a slightly trembling fear, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else on Wednesday evening….



What drew me to audition for the part?? by Graeme Dalling

Shakespeare outdoors in the summer has always been on the bucket list of acting jobs for me. In the elements, the unpredictability, a hands on company approach, the audience right in front of you, minimal set and props; its theatre in its truest form, and as close as you can imagine to how it probably was in Shakespeare’s day.

Another reason I was keen to audition was the fact that Much Ado was a play I had very little knowledge of. I’d maybe seen it once at the globe but had never actually sat down and read it before. The idea of discovering a ‘new’ play appealed to me a lot.

I’m always drawn to playing characters who are perhaps known as not being particularly likeable or difficult to understand. I’m intrigued to find the humanity in these characters, find out what makes their brain tick and also to find their sympathetic edge. If you’re going to play a character you have to like them! We all make stupid decisions and don’t get it right all the time and I was interested in playing Claudio as a young man desperate to make the right decisions but just keeps getting it wrong! He has a great journey in the play, we see him mature before our very eyes!

Lastly, I have a few friends who have worked for Iris Theatre and heard nothing but great things about the company. This was a good enough an endorsement I needed to audition!

Right I have to go. I casually mentioned last night I make my own bread and so I’ve been roped into bringing in a loaf tonight for rehearsals!

My delicious bread

My delicious bread

Amy Draper headshot2

By Amy Draper – Director – Much Ado About Nothing

Day 1 of rehearsals – always a heady mix of excitement and first-day-of-school nerves. And today was no exception. There is something thrilling, as a director, about finally being in the room with the company that has been meticulously put together over months. People who will become a very close-knit little family over the coming weeks as we explore the complex world of Much Ado.

We started the day with some ensemble work and different approaches to creating a character. In the afternoon we played around with some text exercises as well as doing the first read through of the play. This is also often a slightly scary moment (Will the edit be clear? Will the cast work well together? Will it be funny?) and I’m delighted to report that even at this early stage some real humour was found, alongside moments of genuine poignancy. The cast are going to be fantastic.