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Educating Agnes – 2nd Year

‘Educating Agnes’ is an adaptation of the Molière classic comedy ‘L’École des Femmes’. It is an adaptation written in full Scottish pros by Liz Lochhead, published in 2008.
The brief we were given for this script was to come up with a theatre concept that re-contextualizes the script in a contemporary setting. In terms of the costumes we were tasked with a sourcing project, whereby we had to find garments and accessories that matched to the characterisations we came up with.

My Concept:

The main objectives of this production is to create a play that maintains the iconic comedic flare of both Moliere and Lochhead, whilst introducing new themes and ideas that are increasingly relevant to the consumer driven times we live in today. The hope is that this will make the 17th century play more accessible and entertaining for a modern day audience of adults, by picking up on and satirising modern day afflictions as well as exploring the archaic ones; the issue of child brides and arranged marriage in Western society now seems more outrageous than it would have when the play was written.

The design aesthetic will hopefully convey a kind of comedy that strikes a chord with the audience by presenting modern caricatures that though they are exaggerated and grotesque can be related to someone everyone knows in their own life. Ideally the design of the production will aid the translation of the fundamental messages in the play by striking a balance between comical design features and design that serves a practical and aesthetic purpose.

As this is a sourcing project, the design will be limited by what can be found within budget, however the contemporary translation of a 17th century play be character lead. Each character will be dressed seemingly pedestrianly but their costumes will feature well thought out comical details that will hint at their place in society and position on the financial ladder. For example, designer logos and iconic design house patterns or motifs will be added to sourced clothing to hint at characteristics and ‘type’ based on their brand loyalty. For example Horace will have Ralph Lauren logos, whilst Alain will have Adidas ones. Depending on the character, these additions will be exaggerated and brash or more subtle and tasteful. For example, Arnolphe’s costume will be an ostentatious, bold collection of heavily branded, tasteless designer pieces that clash harshly because he is keen to exhibit his wealth and his belief is that expense equates to beauty. Contrastingly, Horace will be dressed stereotypically ‘preppy’ with more subtle logos to show that he effortlessly portrays his wealth, but is not obsessed with exhibition of money.

The play is set now, but in a dystopian version of reality where and there is an arms race with designer goods and people are so fixated on money and power that even their relationships are constructed based on personal gain rather than genuine feelings. This was a choice made to mimic the current social climate in a way that is just as humorous as it is serious. I also felt that self-adornment and greed were such fundamental elements to Arnolphe, the protagonist’s character, that it made sense to bring money into the equation as another driving force for his outrageous lust for power and status. The original play is set in the mid 17th century, and so the choices made in terms of contemporary translation of design are based on the construction of character; what would they be like if they lived today? And how would they present themselves as a result?