Theatrical makeup is tricky. You want to make characters real and relatable, but since it’s an act, you also want it to have a showbiz element. The same gets tougher when the characters on stage are evil, not just bad people committing a crime, but evil bearing fictional traits — think witches and ghosts, for instance. You don’t want to be all Halloween about it and make them tacky, yet play around with the horns, the dark kohl, wigs, and more.
Recently, I went to watch Macbeth staged by Amity Dubai’s Theatre Group. I was intrigued to observe the three weird sisters/three witches on the stage, especially since I learnt it was an all-students team that had put up the show. I came back impressed, and later, put forth the question to the team. It is tricky to get it (makeup) right, it can borderline comic, if not done correctly. How did they go about it? “Not everyone has a similar facial structure and our witches themselves were from different backgrounds. We wanted to draw from characters like the West’s Wicked Witch and wanted the makeup to stand out in the light. We tried it out first, but it looked more like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” shared Anam Taufique. The makeup team included her and Navya Dinakar, and the hair team comprised students Husena Murtaza and Nuela Lisa Kari. “In the end, we matched the makeup with the outfit colour, and drew inspiration from Octavia Blake from the show, The 100.”
Want to dig deeper? Listen to what local director Padraig Downey has to say. “We used to hire makeup artists but always felt the makeup looked ‘fake’ on stage. Thankfully, we have experienced actors, who know what works under the harsh lights. The lighting makes one look pale, so one should keep that in mind.” His upcoming production Marina Carr’s Woman and Scarecrow is a piece about an unnamed woman who lies on her deathbed. An ambiguous character called Scarecrow accompanies her on the journey through this contemplation of an unfulfilled life. How do you rely on makeup to depict Scarecrow? “Subtraction is the first rule. Next comes, the fine lines and tone. It is important to have a consistent tone and colour across the face, neck and ears, even the hands which even many seasoned professionals forget to consider. The hands show everything age-wise,” added Downey, who confesses that whilst there is a “healthy” supply of stage blood, they love making theirs with syrup and food colouring. “We wrap it in cling film and store them on the set to be used when fresh blood needs to be shown.” This two-hour show by Danú Theatre is on till June 19 (7:30 pm) at The Theatre at Mall of the Emirates. So, next time you go for exaggerated black circles, bluish-red bruises, and more, remember to keep it authentic, for the audience watches closely.
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