Artwork for Dressing Torch the Place
Kat Chan's costume designs. Photo: Charlie Kinross
Costume Design

Dressing Torch the Place

with Kat Chan

Costume designer Kat Chan discusses heightened naturalism, Princess Diana’s maternity dresses, wigs and more.

How would you describe the costume designs you’re creating for Torch the Place? What is the world of this play?

I would describe the world of the play and the design as heightened naturalism – the design reflects this by how deliberately the costumes tell you each character’s distinct occupation, tastes and personalities via what they’re wearing.

What kinds of garments/fabrics/art finishing are you using in your design?

The main art finishing for the costumes is light ageing and breaking down for some items – especially the Mother’s costume and Paul’s work clothes. Diana’s clothes are supposed to look lived-in or a family item of clothing from when the kids were growing up. The only fabric that had to be somewhat specific was Diana’s green maternity dress, as it is inspired by one of Princess Diana’s maternity dresses.

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Max Brown in Paul's work costume with Diana Lin in Mum's outfit. Photo: Jeff Busby

In your opinion, what is Torch the Place about? How do your designs support the play’s big ideas?

Torch the Place touches upon a lot of themes but I think it’s about familial responsibility, culture and dealing with trauma.

Could you give an example of how you’re using costume to differentiate the characters?

Each character is very distinct in their personality and position within the family unit. For example, Natalie is the successful, jet-setting, model daughter who is the most removed from the family in many ways, so her costume is made up of designer clothes that look incongruous to the domestic setting and other characters.

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Natalie's designer costume. Photo: Jeff Busby

Are they any particular aspects of the Fairfax Studio that impact your design?

We were hyper-aware of how the wigs would read in a more intimate space – especially Diana’s post-treatment hair. They have to read as real otherwise it could be distracting for the audience to see them as wigs.

Is there a particular moment in the play that you’re especially excited about?

There are a couple of quick change and reveals for fantasy/flashback sequences that I always look forward to; they were the most fun (and sometimes challenging) during the making process. Of course, the Princess Diana maternity look is also a favourite.

Torch the Place is on the VCE playlist for Theatre Studies. Is there anything else about your costume design that you’d like to share with students?

Sometimes there are design considerations that aren’t text-based – for example, the Torch the Place set is a busy moving feast for the eye, so I’ve kept the costumes pattern-free, using solid block colours so the actors can stand out more against the background of mountains of stuff.

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