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The Science Festival; ‘Save Our Seas’- 3rd Year

The annual international Science Festival was our first live brief.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the festival, we were tasked with creating a conceptual piece of interactive theatre or installation that was educational. The brief was to come up with a concept that illustrated problems and solutions regarding the issues facing our oceans in the current climate. The concept has to tackle and simplify a specific, well research issue in an engaging way, that would appeal to children. We had to design six costumes to be featured within the production we came up with.

From our six costume designs, we made one of them. Each of our costumes were to feature both in a flash mob to open the festival, and as part of an exhibition that was to run for the duration pf the Science Festival. Unfortunately this was due to happen in April 2020, so the Festival was cancelled due to COVID19. Our work was completed, and photographed for a promotional flier, but the exhibition was sadly called off.

The project itself was such a different experience for me and my course mates as we were working with an external designer for the first time for many of us. There was also a huge focus on research, as we had to learn about all the threats facing our oceans, as well as research the potential solutions. Another aspect that challenged me, but also really excited me was that we had to formulate an immersive production concept for children, which of course meant further research into interactive and children’s theatre.

My Concept:

Going into this project I had an idea of the topic I wanted to focus on, and through researching this particular subject as well as other issues facing our oceans and the solutions being used in an effort to combat them, I became even more interested by the issue of overfishing. Commercial overfishing, no matter where I looked, was in the top 2 threats to our oceans, above all of the other, drastically more media covered and hyperbolized threats we constantly hear about. The lack of media attention around the issues associated with overfishing has been a concern of mine for a couple of years. The fact that it is predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 terrifies me, but what scares me more is that it’s suggested by scientists that at least 46% of this plastic is actually fishing nets alone. And the decrease of fish in the ocean is largely due to marine species depletion caused by commercial trawling… If we could only connect the dots: increase in ocean plastic pollution and decrease in fish- the common denominator being overfishing. This is why I chose to center my project around fishing, to draw attention to a serious issue I feel is largely overlooked and to offer hope in the form of some attainable solutions to the younger generation.

My project specifically tackles the effect that commercial trawling has on marine ecosystems and what can be done to help prevent these important systems from deteriorating, and help to protect marine biodiversity. This will be done through an interactive and informative performance that is set in the North Pacific deep ocean habitat. The interconnectivity of marine species will be highlighted through 6 characters who will each portray a different species found in this region. They will collectively explain how their ecosystem works and that they are all incredibly important to each other in terms of the food web and energy flows.

The main character is ‘Billie Bluefin’- who is a Pacific Bluefin tuna, a target species of commercial trawling that as a result, has become threatened. The other characters are Orla the Orca, Stanley Squid, Jemima Jellyfish, Anthony the Anchovy and Penny Plankton. They have each been given different personalities and characters to better engage the audience of 5-10 year old children (an age group I have experience working with). They will build a picture of marine biodiversity and the positives of that- both scientifically with what they are saying and visually as they will all look very different. The concept of overfishing threatening this wonderful diversity will be explained and demonstrated by the children themselves, who will scoop up all of the characters with a trawling net, leaving Jemima Jellyfish who will explain that by trying to remove Billie, the target species, there is a huge knock on effect to all other species in the same ecosystem. She uses the practical example of the overpopulation of jellyfish caused by overfishing in the Pacific to illustrate her point.

Another group of children will be invited up to join hands around the characters to form a Marine protected area. The concept of a no-take Zone and MPA will be shown as a positive solution to overfishing as the characters inside the children’s circle will thrive and dance, having an MPA party. The spill-over effect will also be explained as a part of this. Next, a new group of children will be invited to come up with small individual fishing nets to chase Billie around. He will explain that MPAs mean that less fish are caught, and that this is more sustainable because the fewer fish that are caught, the lesser the impact on the ecosystem there will be. The connection will be made between the children’s fishing nets and their shopping baskets as Billie will explain how reading seafood ‘avoid’ lists and making small swaps in their own lives can also have a hugely positive impact on the amount of fish caught. The combination of conscious consumption and support of MPAs can reduce overfishing and protect the wonderful ecosystems, like this one onstage, and help to save our seas.

The costumes themselves will have be colourful, fun and engaging visually. Whilst the characters will be designed to look like very different marine animals, there will be continuity in their styling and motifs. This continuity will help to illustrate how each of the characters are deeply connected in their ecosystem. Such motifs will include: barnacle inspired applique, ethereal textiles and tailoring such as puffs and ruffles, and body-paint.

Finally, in-keeping with the brief and in the spirit of conscious consumption, the costume `I make will be made up of a minimum of 80% recycled, repurposed and reclaimed materials. This will push me to think about alternative materials and will ensure that my textile work is creative. This will, if executed well, provide another layer of interest and depth to the concept and costume as a whole.

My costume:

I made Jemima Jellyfish as she was voted most popular from my six characters. I used a base of recycled and repurposed fabrics. I sourced second hand, damaged and unwanted prom and bridesmaids dresses from charity shops. I tried as best I could to source fabrics in shades of pale pink and white. I Pathed these bias cut pieces together with French seams, and spray died them to get a mottled watermark effect. I used fishing tackle to form a fluted, curly edge to the flounce skirt. The bodice was made by hand pleating cut offs from the skirt pieces, to make a textured fully pleated effect. I used beads from charity shop necklaces to decorate the costume. The headpiece and bag were made from sheet plastic taken from broken picture frames. I used a heat gun to melt and shape the jellyfish shape by hand.