(circumnavigating the berliner “fleas”)
The concept for the set design, props and costumes from Shakespeare im Park Berlin’s theatre piece, Utopia TM Where All is True, was based in the rich material found in Berlin’s unique Flea Market tradition, and transformed through a process of meticulous assemblage. The show played for four weeks in Kreuzberg’s fashionably derelict, Görlitzer Park, with audience touring through this mobile site-specific event alongside actors, who made the park their stage.
Over the course of two months, Arianne Vitale Cardoso (costume designer) and Alberto di Gennaro (set designer) scoured the city for material. From huge industrial warehouse to rundown little “Troedel” shop, Berlin offers a seeming infinitude of possibilities to find charming curios, quaint knick-knacks, rare and tawdry fabrics and occasionally monumental discoveries in the magic casements of the city’s grungy network of second-hand commerce: prices all negotiable and dust, mould (and sometimes a little bit of that “Berliner Schnauze”) galore!
With such “rare-bird” acquisitions at hand, the assemblage was accomplished with the thrill of turning lead into gold. An old blanket was transformed into King Henry VIII’s cape, a curtain was used to make the dress of Catherine of Aragon, multi-colored plastic toys adorned the banner of Utopia, and brass instruments such as trumpets, tuba-bells and copper piping fashioned the Golden Latrines, (of Thomas More’s Utopia), into root-toot-tooting park-bootie doodie-chutes. In each of the set-pieces and costumes created with “flea-objects,” it was possible to detect the spirit of the market of origin and the peculiar idiosyncrasies of the purchase/discovery-experience.
About the Upcycling Costumes
With a firm basis in historical research- that examined images and patterns from the time of King Henry VIII and drew inspiration from the work of Bruegel- the materials were re-crafted to quote both historical and contemporary trends in fashion and reflect the central action of the play itself: a major political/socio-economic upheaval between the un-apologetically opulent King and the worker/subjects, who revolt to join Thomas More in his proto-socialist experiment, Utopia.
In this new society the actors strip themselves of their heavily influenced “renaissance” peasantry togs, and remain wearing only underwear, over which their new utilitarian poly-urethane multi-purpose “work-clothes” (purchased at Modulor) are draped, wrapped or tucked by Thomas More himself.
“What UtopiaTM – Where all is True lacks in polish, it compensates for in inventiveness: combining texts from Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare and some authors whose names have been lost to history; creating signs out of children’s toys; using plastic sheeting for costumes and silver balls for Anne Boleyn’s (Sebastian Witt) breasts.” EXBERLINER
With a simple cut, the plastic costumes were used to “carry the set” from scene to scene. Their functionality combined with their poetry of movement in the park’s summer sunset- light brought a scintilla- ting, oft times crackly texture to the performance.
Text by Arianne Vitale Cardoso and Maxwell Flaum
Map with the flea markets and shops visited during the research for Utopia TM.