My first entry into a brand new sketchbook is a character that I have admired for many years. Madame Thénardier is the female secondary antagonist in the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The wife of Monsieur Thénardier, I chose this mouthy crook as she is one of the most colourful and memorable characters around.

In the novel, Madame Thénardier is a tall, ugly and fat woman, about 12 or 14 years younger than her husband. In the plays, she has been portrayed in several different ways, all of which are wonderfully corrupt. My favourites include Susan Jane Tanner from the original London cast, Jenny Galloway from the Dream Cast in Concert and the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary concert and Helena Bonham Carter in the 2012 film production.

I think that the costume worn by Helena Bonham Carter in the majority of Les Misérables was a perfect mess. I was amazed by the layers of fabrics, mix matches of colours, differing patterns and embroidered details. For example, the red and black embroidered bodice that also showed hints of appliqué or quilting.

The costume designer for the production was Paco Delgado. He was tasked with creating looks for a large cast of flamboyant characters to visually translate Victor Hugo’s classic tale in a way that was convincing and moving. His impressive work brought him an Oscar and Bafta nominations.

“And of course, the ladies’ dresses were very appealing. I really enjoyed designing for the comedy characters played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter. As pickpockets and ruffians they were expressing a kind of freedom and it was refreshing to represent that with a freer use of fabric and colour.”

I hope to update the blog regularly with many more of my character sketches from theatre, film and tv. Vive La France!

Ciara x


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