Clothes are more than just a covering. They can evoke
emotions of all kinds according to Fortune Theatre artistic
director Lara Macgregor. Charmian Smith reports.
Cast members Barbara Power (left) and Nadya Shaw Bennett
(right) with director Lara Macgregor at Tamsin Cooper's
Boutique in Moray Pl. The trio are bringing Love, Loss and
What I Wore to the Fortune Theatre with a revolving cast of
acting talent. Photo by Linda Robertson.
The experience of clothes can be triumphant or mortifying,
nostalgic or sad, and evoke relationships of all kinds,
according to Lara Macgregor, artistic director of the Fortune
Theatre. She is directing the New Zealand premiere Love,
Loss and What I Wore, which explores the joys and
tribulations of clothes and their funny poignant stories. It
will be playing during iD Fashion Week.
She remembers the mortifying experience of being taken by her
mother to buy her first bra.
''I've never spoken to anyone about it, but you forget that
every woman goes through that experience - or when your dad
realises that you've matured and he can no longer hug you the
way he used to. All those things pertain to being a woman,''
''Essentially [the play's] a celebration of what it is to be
a woman. It overtakes you in a very subtle and beautiful way.
For me personally, I don't feel I have a connection to
clothing and I don't collect shoes. I get up, put on
whatever's clean, and that's about it. So I wasn't sure how
much I would personally be able to relate to it, but it moved
me a great deal because it was about mothers and sisters and
daughters. It's quite beautiful,'' Macgregor says.
The play was recommended to her by Elric Hooper, former
director of the Court Theatre in Christchurch, who had seen
it in New York where it was playing off-Broadway.
''I found it interesting that a play that's essentially for
women and about women, would have so much resonance with men
as well. I think any man who has a daughter, loves his wife
or his mother is also going to benefit a great deal from
these women sharing these fragments.''
The main character, Gingy, is a wealthy New York woman, but
the others come from different backgrounds and all over the
United States. They share stories and memories, their
emotions triggered by clothes or accessories.
They talk about brownie uniforms, Gingy's mother in a fox
stole is a trigger for a memory, a coral wool jersey dress
when jersey dresses were in fashion, a pink satin dress with
a bouquet that leads to stories about proms, maternity
dresses, the wrap dress, a paper dress when that became a
trend, jewellery, boots, mini-dresses and, of course, fashion
faux pas, which we all have, she says.
''There's a wonderful monologue in there about the handbag
and how it's basically a woman's rubbish bin for everything
in life. They talk about things you have in a handbag and why
- it sounds sort of trite when you are talking about it in
this vein but it has a surprising depth in it and there's a
lot of personal history.''
One woman has a tender, heartfelt story about a bathrobe that
belonged to her mother who died when she was a child, and
some time later her stepmother came downstairs in an
identical bathrobe which brought up a lot of memories.
''A lot of the stories are to do with mothers and daughters
and the arguments about what mother wanted you to wear and
what she felt was in fashion and what you felt was in
As well as the longer stories there are snappy
''clotheslines'' where the actresses interchange brief,
chorus-like lines on a topic, such as fitting rooms, fashion
crimes or having nothing to wear.
''It's about how relationships shift and change, a
sisterhood, I suppose, in a lot of respects. Older sisters
looking after younger sisters and mothers and daughters
particularly, and how delicate and dependent and fragile that
relationship can be. It's about relationships, but they are
elicited through women's clothes.''
Written by sisters Delia and the late Nora Ephron, and based
on Ilene Beckerman's book of the same name, the show has been
playing off-Broadway for several years. Five actresses play
many characters, including Gingy, the key character and
mother figure who ties it all together.
Unusually, the cast changes week by week. Rima te Wiata and
Alison Quigan, who are permanent members, will be joined by
some of the country's finest actresses for a week at a time.
They include the grand dame of New Zealand theatre, Dame Kate
Harcourt, Claire Dougan, Jennifer Ward-Leyland, Ginette
McDonald, Sara Wiseman, Jennifer Ludlum, Barbara Power, Lara
Macgregor, Claire Dougan, Nadya Shaw-Bennett and Jen Ludlam.
''There's a lot of talk about fashion faux pas. I hope the
actresses bring their own so I can highlight them in the
programme and talk about things like the years when we tried
to squash ourselves into spaghetti jeans,'' Macgregor says.
Love, Loss and What I Wore, written by Norah and Delia
Ephron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman, opens at the
Fortune Theatre on March 2 and plays until March 23.