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Feature: Interview with Costume Design Technician Tina Bicât

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Feature: Interview with Costume Design Technician Tina Bicât

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Tina Bicât, Costume Design Technician for the Drama department at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham talks about this exciting area of work and why students are some of the best people to work with. What inspired you to get started in the world of theatre sets and costume design? I’ve always had a visual imagination, and I remember being inspired by nursery rhymes when I was younger. I had a book with beautiful pictures when I was about three, all I wanted to do was make the pictures come to life and that is exactly what I do now, I make pictures and ideas come to life. What’s the best thing about working with students from Drama St Mary’s? It’s exciting working with students. They are at the beginning of their career and don’t have any preconceptions of what things should be like, or see difficulties that might hold back imagination. They can come up with great ideas that a more experienced person might not think of, so we’re always learning from each other. Understandably budgets are often small, how do you create something without spending loads? No matter what the budget, the vision is always the same, the challenge is in how you make that vision a reality with limited resources. We are very lucky at Drama St Mary’s because theatre companies often donate costumes once they have finished a production, a student could easily find themselves wearing something that once started life at the English National Opera. Equally, they could be wearing a dress made from an old curtain found at a carboot sale – experience teaches you how to spot an original 1920s silk dress from 100 yards away! What do your days typically involve? Every day is completely different. Some days I will work solidly on creating the costumes and sets, whilst on others I can be found in museums and libraries researching forthcoming projects. It’s actually fantastic to be based in London because you have the very best research resources on your doorstep as well as so many performances. What about outside St Mary’s? I spend about half of my time at St Mary’s and half working on freelance projects with the company Bicat&Rigby, which I run with fellow designer Kate Rigby. We work on a wide range of projects for professional theatre companies. We’re currently preparing for the Kew Gardens Illuminated Christmas Walk where we are creating two wintery scenes aimed at children on the walk. The first set is on the 1950s theme of ‘Dreaming of a White Christmas’, and the second a Victorian children’s bedroom suggested by the ‘The Night Before Christmas’ children’s book. We are also in the middle of a two year project for the National Trust’s Mottisford House in Hampshire where we are building 13 installations. Our work is very demanding, but also very exciting! What is your most memorable project? It would be so difficult to pick just one project, I’m not sure I could! We work on such a variety of performances and each one is so very different. Although I did once find myself up a Spanish mountain for one production, which was quite memorable. How Does your Freelance Work Overlap with Drama St Mary’s? A lot of our freelance projects overlap with the projects here at St Mary’s. We work closely with the physical theatre companies Ockham’s Razor and Flying Cloud who use aerial work, dance and physicality in their performances along with Amici Dance and Chris Baldwin Theatre who work on projects which involve the community and tie in closely with our Applied Theatre students. Our work with New International Encounter (NIE) and Red Cape blends devised work with tightly scripted performance and the more traditional designing from script is more closely allied to the Theatre Arts programme. Students take part in internships on most of our freelance projects, which gives them industry experience and contacts as well as enhancing the application of their academic learning. Some have gone on to be employed by us, or the people who employ us, after they graduate! Tina-Bicât Tina Bicat  
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