Posted by Cecile Lucas, July 28th, 2017
Director Will O’Mahony chose the fresh and emerging costume designer Rozina Suliman for his new play, Coma Land. With a background in installation art, Rozina’s career proves that the seemingly innate connection between installation art and theatre design offers endless intertwining possibilities, all for the benefit of audience experiences. Once the calm resumed after the opening of Coma Land last Saturday, we finally had the chance to ask Rozina a few questions about her personal journey in design, her collaboration with Director Will O’Mahony, and how her design process works.
What is about Coma Land that grabs you most? And what was the design brief for this production?
When I first read Coma Land I felt connected to it. There was space between the words to imagine, to dream and to examine my own life experience. Will’s writing is very beautiful and evocative, and his process of refining is rather phenomenal to experience. Every time he sent me a new draft of the script it was better. I felt audiences would connect with the work too.
I’d say it was a design journey, rather than a design brief. The space between the words meant there were endless possibilities. Will, set designer Patrick James Howe and I explored all the extremes in the early part of the process and then we explored it all again when rehearsals started!
What research did you conduct when thinking about the design for Coma Land? And what is your design process like in general?
My research file for Coma Land is massive. We went everywhere like little explorers overturning rocks and looking for the right grain of sand on a vast rocky-sandy beach! My design process varies depending on the work and the creative team. I would, however, say that generally I am an intuitive designer and I feel my way through the process as much as I think and research.
From the first day of rehearsal right until the Opening Night there have been a lot of adjustments made to the costumes. Can you explain a little about the work-in-progress relationships with the cast and artistic team? How did you and Director Will O’Mahony reach decisions about concept and style?
Design needs to support the work and its intention. Often the rehearsal room is the best place to design, particularly with a new work as it evolves and develops throughout this period. It is important to be open and be able to adapt where you can. In this instance we had designed to a point prior to rehearsals however, needed the performers input to develop the characters and the costumes. Boon, for example started off as a fifteen year old but through the rehearsal process became an eleven year old because it was more fitting to the story. I am also very grateful that I had wonderful support from Lynn Ferguson, Black Swan’s Wardrobe Manager.
What was the most challenging? Is there something in particular that required constant attention?
Socks! We went through so many options it’s become the show joke now!
Set & Costume Design, The Last Great Hunt, The Advisors, 2017. Image by Daniel James Grant
How did you first get interested in being a Costume Designer?
I fell into theatre design. My background is in installation art. About eight years ago I was exhibiting work at a now defunct Art, Theatre and Music venue in Brisbane called Top Floor. I was approached by Claire Marshall (an independent Brisbane choreographer) to create installation art for her upcoming work, Hey Scenester!. We met, we clicked, we decided to have some fun together and it just progressed from there.
Creating experiences for audiences and collaborating are the two things I am most passionate about. Theatre design work suits me because it encompasses both of these passions and allows me to support other creatives in their pursuits. There is something so beautiful about working with other creative people, bouncing around ideas and pooling your skills to make something you could not make alone because everyone has a different story and a different set of skills to bring to the table.
Set Design, Timothy Brown Choreography, Salon, 2013. Image by Lisa De Re.
After six years of teaching myself design on the fly, I decided I wanted to make this my career and moved to Perth in 2015 to attend WAAPA and undertake further study in the field of set and costume design. Prior to WAAPA, I had not designed costumes. I am thoroughly enjoying learning about costume design, the role costumes play in telling a story and I am very grateful to Will O’Mahony, Black Swan State Theatre Company and Performing Lines WA for giving me the opportunity to play and learn with them.
How do you look for work as a designer? Do you pitch? Do people find you?
To be honest, all of my work in the past has been through word of mouth and recommendations. I still don’t have a website–have been talking about it for over ten years–but people still manage to find me. I feel it will be a combination of both in the future.
Set Design, Claire Marshall Choreography, Video Set, 2011. Photo by Rozina Suliman.
Any advice/inspiration for those wanting to become a costume designer?
I’m going to give more general advice in relation to the path of the creative. And that is, if you feel your contribution to the world lies in the creative realm, I encourage you to join us. The world needs more creativity. I believe that life is about living your truth and learning, and although the creative path can be hard, daunting and lonely at times, it is also filled with magic, amazing experiences, wonderful people and so many opportunities for learning and growth. I wouldn’t have it any other way.