Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Doctor Maggi Phillips

Abstract

In undressing and redressing the Harlequin from an Australian designer’s perspective, the question is why has the Harlequin costume endured for over 500 years and in locations far away from its country of origin? Why do we associate its lozenge pattern with energetic joyous mischief? What are the Harlequin costume codes and how have they been manifested in Australia? The thesis components are divided as follows: The Designer’s Notebook is a pictorial and historical review of the iconic costume, which is made up of a complex patchwork of triangles where colour placements form a diamond pattern called a lozenge. The Harlequin, a stock character from commedia dell’arte, who emerged in Italy and France during the 1500s, wears the lozenge costume. The notebook traces possible connections and reasons for the emergence of both the costume and the Harlequin figure prior to his catalyzation as a character in commedia dell’arte. Having arrived at the manifestation of Harlequin and his lozenge costume, the focus moves to the forms of expression in which he has participated and the mutations which have occurred in the costume. Harlequin High Jinks Down Under is concerned with the manifestation of both the harlequinesque figure and its associated costume codes in circus and the harlequinades in Australia from the 1850s, when a kind of Australian larrikinism began to develop as the national identity. From this unique environment a century later sprang the satirist, Dame Edna Everage and the social and political comic, Joel Salom, associated with Circus OZ. On the international front, these Australian performers have joined comic book characters in keeping the harlequinesque costume codes alive, but something deeper is happening with the Harlequin and his lozenge attire. For instance, some philosophers have come to accept Harlequin as a visual code for the union of multi-nationalities. The Research additionally explores the enduring contribution of the lozenge code not only through the historical tracing of harlequinesque imagery but also through the designing of a 2 square meter art–piece created at an international residency in Vietnam to reflect the energetic universality of the lozenge form. Here Harlequin’s liminality is explored. Finally two new costume designs have been created for the Australian performers, Everage and Salom, to further the design of the harlequinesque into an imagined future.

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