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An Interview with Charity Wakefield

words Liz Seabrook

21st January 2015

An air of familiarity surrounds Charity Wakefield. A seasoned pro in the period drama game, Charity has appeared in everything from Austin adaptations to big Hollywood affairs. Her next project to air, Wolf Hall – an adaptation of the acclaimed novel by Hilary Mantel – began on Wednesday night on BBC2.

We caught up with Charity to talk about costumes and her second love: vintage clothing.

Tell us about your role in Wolf Hall. 

I play Mary Boleyn – Anne Boleyn's sister – who was key to Anne's success really. The Boleyn family was ambitious: at fifteen Mary was sent to France as part of the English court. Inspite of being in France with the King's wife, she quickly became the King's mistress. When the King died, Mary went back to England and even though she then found her own husband, she became mistress to Henry VIII. When her sister Anne came to court, Mary was put out of favour. That's when Wolf Hall starts. It was helpful to Anne's progress that Mary was intimate with the King already, because she was able to teach Anne various things, but as Anne gets nearer to the King she pushes her sister further away.

At this point in the story, she's in a precarious position. She's lost her husband and she doesn't have a position at court; all of her favour lies in the hands of the King and Queen.

Playing the gentry during the time of Henry VIII must mean that you got to wear some amazing costumes!

We had swathes of classes about etiquette- it was like going to finishing school! We had to learn how to bow which is nigh on impossible when you're wearing a corset. The skirts are so heavy that you have to walk very slowly and at a slight incline so that they don't swing and reveal your ankles, or anything else. They didn't wear any knickers at all because it was considered unseemly. You'd only wear knickers if you were trying to be provocative.

What's it like wearing a corset?

In this period, the corsets were sewn into the dresses, which was difficult. It was such a big job to get the hair and make up done you could never take it off, so we were in our dresses from about 6am until sometimes 8pm, which is tiring. You wouldn't think that your clothes could make you tired, but they do. 

When you’re not filming you run a vintage shop – Charlie Foxtrot – with a friend, how did that come about?

The shop started with a Scrabble club with three of my girlfriends. By virtue of it being four girls meeting regularly, we'd now and again bring clothes to swap with each other. My friend Frances and I found that we had lots of random but lovely vintage pieces. After a while we decided that we shouldn't really be giving them away so we did our first pop up sale in a lovely pub called the Ivydale in South-East London. We sat in our vintage clothes as if we were in a Wes Anderson film. After about five years of doing market stalls and pop ups it's lovely to finally have our own space.

It’s great to have a business; as an actor your career can feel quite random because you're never in control, and you're often not there at the beginning of the process which I would like to have been. When I'm working, the costume is the point where everything comes together. You do your audition, you get the job, you go for the meetings and then you get your costumes. It's that moment you looking in the mirror when everything suddenly clicks.

You can watch Wolf Hall at 9pm on Wednesdays on BBC2, and catch up online.

Photography: Liz Seabrook
Make up: Andriani Vasiliou @ Stella Creative Artists
Hair: Johnnie Biles @ Stella Creative Artists

Beyond Clueless: An Interview With Director Charlie Lyne

words Jason Ward

21st January 2015

Agonisingly stitched together from the hundreds of teen movies that were made in a verdant period from 1995 to 2004, Beyond Clueless documents the topography of a lost world: a faded cinematic landscape of high school proms, illicit house parties, friendship cliques, fevered emotions, late-night swimming pool sex scenes and Ryan Phillippe.

Created by debut film-maker Charlie Lyne – a young journalist best known for creating the movie blog Ultra Culture – the documentary is an act of sustained film criticism as well a sensorial experience and heady blast of nostalgia, scored by the blissful indie-pop duo Summer Camp. We caught up with Charlie in the middle of a nationwide screening tour to talk about bringing the movies of his youth back to the screen.

How many films did you watch while researching and how many made it into the film?

In the end I looked at about 300 films and somewhere between 200 and 300 made it in. Early on I had ideas of cramming in every little thing but for various reasons a few couldn't make the cut. We had no clue it was going to balloon so much. When I set out I drew up a list of about 100 films from memory, but then I'd spend five minutes on Freddie Prinze Jr.'s Wikipedia page and discover 25 more that I had to watch, or I'd go to a party and get talking to someone and come home with an Amazon shopping basket's worth of stuff. Even now doing Q&As people bring films up – a guy last night asked why The Butterfly Effect wasn't included and I couldn't give a decent answer about how it slipped through the net. One of the good things about the genre at that time is that it was defined by hundreds of mid-level films rather than a small number of massive hits.

In that case did you feel you had to be rigorous with your criteria?

There were instances where we slightly broke our own rules, purely because there were some moments in those films that were perfect. We tried to be as broad as possible. I wasn't worried about the strict ages of the characters – they didn't have to be set in a high school or anything like that. We were just trying to make sure every film dealt in some way with adolescence, with characters who feel like they're half way between childhood and adulthood.

Do you think that the teen movies from this period are distinct from the ones that came in the 80s or the YA-derived films that came later?

Obviously there are preoccupations which are perennial. I'm sure 50 years from now you'll find exactly the same sorts of themes and ideas popping up, but I do think that the movies that we looked at, from the mid-90s to mid-00s, are a lot less monolithic than the ones from the previous generation. Despite certain tropes appearing again and again the sheer number of cinematic modes that film-makers were using makes it a much more fertile world to explore. There were just as many horror films as comedies and dramas.

Why did they die out?

Teen movies tend to come in waves so after nearly a decade of intense production I guess it was inevitable that it would reach saturation point. I also think Hollywood had become reliant on teenage characters. They wound up in the very centre of the mainstream and therefore teen movies were extraneous once every movie was a teen movie. It did end very suddenly. You look at 2004 which I would pinpoint as the dying days of that wave, and yet half the films we look at closely in Beyond Clueless seem to have come from that year. It feels appropriate that it ended with a bang. Also it's like the span of an actual teenager. If you were just becoming a teenager when Clueless came out you'd be at the tail end of your adolescence when Mean Girls was released. Your bond with those movies would very suddenly come to an end.

Throughout Beyond Clueless the same actors appear again and again. It's notable how lots of them didn't really go on to adult stardom. Why do you think that was?

It does seem to be a difficult transition. One of the problems is that if you're a child star you can disappear and come back a few years later and redefine yourself, but if you become known for playing characters in their late adolescence it's more of an amorphous switch when you start playing adults, even when you've actually been one for years. It's a shame, especially because so many of those actors were very talented and never got a chance to show what they could do.

Beyond Clueless is both a criticism of these films and a celebration of them. Do you think they had an unfair critical reception at the time – that because they were aimed at teenagers they were dismissed?

I'm glad you say Beyond Clueless is a celebration and a critique because I think critical snobbishness meant that neither was done well enough at the time. People weren't giving these movies the time of day but equally they weren't critiquing them either. The default with a lot of teen movies is a critical assumption that they're inherently frivolous. I think it's a missed opportunity: they're hitting an audience at the most impressionable age it's possible to be, and yet we don't really stop and think about what they're telling that audience or how they're doing it. 

During your research was there anything you fondly remembered that was absolutely terrible? 

I recall being especially horrified by The Girl Next Door, which was a movie I took on board very unthinkingly as a teenager. Watching it with fresh eyes after a decade was quite terrifying, not that my affection for it has completely diminished. I still can't help but feel a real affinity for it despite its massive flaws and problematic central plot. But then for every one of those there was another film that I was delighted to find was even better than I gave it credit for. To revisit them was a constantly alternating participatory experience.

It must become difficult to separate what's good from what's bad.

Hours into the process I realised that I'd lost all concept of quality. They just became this massive blob of movies that coexisted and seemed to dance around each other, an entire movement in a state of constant flux, so any idea of which were the better or worse ones just went out the window.

Pretty Lovely: A Patchwork Rainbow of Giveaways!

words Olivia Wilson

5th January 2015

One Christmas, my Aunt made my sisters and I and all our cousins a patchwork notebook cover. Not only was it a lovely thing in itself, but you could tell that it was made with love: each one had been stitched together with a co-ordinating coloured thread and every swatch specifically chosen for each one of us. Mine is now a little threadbare with use, but I shan't ever part with it. Patchwork is for keeps.

So for Issue 23's Pretty Lovely, I chose a selection of the loveliest patchwork items you can buy by designer-makers who have dedicated themselves to the art. For your chance to win any of the items below, write in to free@ohcomely.co.uk and tell us about your best-loved and most tattered possession.

Squint. This topsy-turvy lampshade is fabulous enough to have come straight from Alice in Wonderland! Vebo. This Mexico-based maker creates bunting as colourful and cheerful as herself. Drape them around a room or festoon them in the garden for instant cheer. Tamiah Designs. Textile treasure-hunter Gaelle of Tamiah Designs makes home furnishings and accessories using African wax prints. Her patchwork-covered diaries are something to treasure the whole year through. Lisa Watson. Cover your bed in a much-coveted quilt made from distinctly British fabrics. She also wastes not, wants not, and makes cushions from the offcuts and remnants. 2LeftHandz. Mother and daughter, Patti and Kaitlin, don't have two left hands each at all. They couldn't possibly when they make such eye-catching stockings. I Love Retro. Each cushion is made from unique retro-inspired patches, so no two are the same. Suzy Newton. Display pretty pictures in frames as pretty as a picture themselves. Suzy Newton cleverly clashes traditional techniques with contemporary fabrics to make modern patchwork masterpieces. Eighteen Rabbit. It's hard to be sad when you're wearing happy socks - this patchwork pair will make you smile from top to toe. We also spoke to Jane Clucas who makes little bags and purses from gloriously patterned vintage fabrics about the increasing difficulties of ferreting great patterns out in charity shops. You can read the full interview on page p.124 of the magazine, which you can buy here

Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death: An Interview with Director Tom Harper

words Alice Simkins

1st January 2015

It isn't obvious that there could be a sequel to the 2012 thriller, Woman in Black. Based on the novella by Susan Hill, the story is simple: a ghost haunts an isolated house and takes the lives of children. However, director Tom Harper has adapted and developed the story in the Angel of Death to take place forty years later during the Second World War, with a new cast of characters. 

The returning spectre in Angel of Death thrives on a prevailing feeling of loss, and returns to haunt a young school teacher and a group of evacuated children who are seeking refuge in the countryside. With previous works including Misfits and This is England ’86Harper incorporates dream scenes alongside traditional horror tropes to create a ghost story that's exemplary of its genre. We spoke to him about creating the film ahead of its release.

Did you see the film as a sequel to, or a remake of, the first Woman in Black?

I saw Angel of Death as another chapter. When I first found out about the idea of making another film I wasn’t certain it would work, as the first one appeared to be rounded off. After all, the main character dies, so I wasn’t sure how we could move the story on. But then I heard that the author of the book, Susan Hill, had had the idea of setting the film forty years later with different characters, which I thought was interesting. I was inspired by the idea of evacuees going to a house in the country for safety. Something about that idea really struck a chord with me: escaping the Blitz to somewhere you think is safe, but that's actually not safe at all. What made me take this further was seeing a public service poster from the Ministry of Health during the Second World War. It read, ‘Mothers, your children are safer in the country’ and I wanted to turn that on it’s head in the film.

Do you think the film would have worked in a different time frame?

The woman in black is such a good character that I think she could work in any time frame. The core idea of a ghost who brings death to children is so scary because the fear of losing a child is such a strong, natural feeling. For me, the Second World War was a really effective time period to set it in as there was such a prevailing feeling of loss. The loss of fathers, children, the breaking up of families... there was so much death around that maybe the woman in black feeds off that.

Where did you draw inspiration from?

I’ve always liked horrors, such as The Innocence and some Japanese films like Dark Water by Hideo Nakata. I had to make sure to be up to date with what was being released at the time, and watched classic movies of the genre that I hadn’t seen before. However I didn’t want to get too focused on films that have gone before. I wanted to leave that behind and make the best film for the story. The locations were very inspiring; the causeway we filmed in was very atmospheric, although it was fraught with difficulties because we only had a limited amount of time to film before the tide came in. We filmed some scenes in a real old, run-down houses, and that was useful because they really did feel quite creepy. It's important to have the cast in a real place, so they can feed off that energy.

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is out in UK cinemas now.

Issue 23 Playlist: The Great Indoors

words Linnea Enstrom

19th December 2014

The Great Indoors issue of Oh Comely brings you a midwife who assists home births, photographs of cosy corners and a gig set up in someone's living room. It's all about warmth and community.

But the idea of home can also have entirely different connotations, like loneliness and longing for a change that will grab you by the ankles and rip you out of your daily routine. Therefore, you won't find a single Christmas song on my playlist this month.

Instead, I'm drawn to St. Vincent's depiction of the mundane in Birth in Reverse: "Oh, what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate."

And here's a close-up of Sonny Ross' homely pattern, which illustrates the playlist in the issue.

Sponsored Post: Eight Folksy Christmas Presents

words Alice Simkins

13th December 2014

For the second of our Christmas lists, we're featuring Folksy brands from Issue 23's Present Directory. So for all you late Christmas shoppers out there, read on for handmade wonders and discount codes!

One. This wonderful chunky silver ring is available from Ellie Christine, who makes her jewellery by hand in Somerset. folksy.com/shops/EllieChristine

Two. Flaxen Hare offer adorable kits to get children knitting. Better still, Oh Comely readers get 20% off with the code HHARE14. folksy.com/shops/flaxenhare

Three. This bracelet features a hand-crafted fine silver charm with a delicate leafy pattern. Available from Calyx Handmade Jewellery. folksy.com/shops/CalyxHandmadeJewellery

Four. This beautifully minimal, sea-side inspired pendant is from Becca Williams, who has her workshop in Birmingham’s historic jewellery quarter. She takes regular trips to the seaside to inspire her work. folksy.com/shops/BeccaWilliams

Five. These Yultide wax melts from Stamford Holistic are made with orange and cinnamon oils, and make for a great alternative to candles. folksy.com/shops/StamfordHolistic

Six. Caren Barry creates lovely printed textiles and paper goods. folksy.com/shops/carenbarry

Seven. Sheffield-based Folk It! make ready-to-go art kits that teach beginners how to make folk art. folksy.com/shops/Folkit

Eight. Flip Knit Stitch breath new life into old buttons in the most ingenious of ways; you're sure to find something upcycled and cute here. folksy.com/shops/FlipKnitStitch

Sponsored Post: Eight Lovely Christmas Presents

words Alice Simkins

12th December 2014

For all you late Christmas shoppers out there, we’ve put together a list of handmade wonders that would make lovely presents. We’ve thrown in a few promotional codes too, so have a read below for gems and good value. 

One. This gold-plated 'Key To My City' necklace is quirky and sentimental. Oh Comely readers get 20% off all items at monamara.com with the code OHCOMELY20.

Two. This wonderful bangle by Julia Parry-Jones is sold at madebyhandonline.com, which presents collections of jewellery, ceramics, textiles and sculpture. Well worth a visit.

Three. This lovely calendar from lilaccoast.co.uk features twelve hand-painted floral illustrations. It's way too pretty to scribble on, we think!

Four. We like this pom-pom cushion designed and made by Glasgow School of Art graduates Hazel Dunn and Alexandra Bland, available here.

 

Five. This lovely bee charm necklace is made in East London by Monica Boxley.

Six. If you're looking for ethically-produced, fair trade goods, look no further than eighteenrabbit.co.uk. We like this 'perching bird'; just one of the lovely gems sold at Eighteen Rabbit. Get 15% off with the code OHCOMELY.

Seven. Treat your stargazer to their very own mini-astronaut companion with this necklace from eclecticeccentricity.co.uk, creators of super-fun and quirky pieces.

Eight. Cute cards are available from etsy.com/uk/shop/kibbiedesigns.

Oh Comely Christmas: Four Art Cards and Their Stories

words Tamara Vos

10th December 2014

Our subscription welcome packs are selling like hot-cakes, and we've had a ball putting them all together here in the office. 

Inside, you'll find four of our favourite photographs, a pretty snowflake charm and a secret challenge, all tied up with Oh Comely cheer. Order any subscription before the 16th of December, and we'll pop one into the post for you, for free!

To warm you up, here's a little about each photographer featured in the package: 

Li Hui

Li is a self taught photographer who began snapping seriously in 2009. Her photos are still and evocative; her photo of a girl's head hidden by dandelion seeds and light was printed in Issue Eighteen of Oh Comely. 

Olivia Larrain

Based in Chile, Olivia studied fashion and textile design before realising that she'd become more interested in photography. Quiet and moody with a touch of darkness, her photos capture perfectly the magic of small adventures. 

Dahiana Gambos

Also based in Chile, Dahiana photographs her friends, street animals and her city. Her photos are youthful and honest, featuring muted colours, portraits and shy smiles. Her photo of two girls with their arms flung to the wind was featured in Issue Twenty Two. 

Maria Vittoria Piana Brizio

Maria is an Italian photographer who studied etching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. She photographs empty streets and imposing buildings, as well as the incidental people in amongst them. Her photo "Walking on a Dream" was featured in Oh Comely Issue Fifteen. 

Photos from top: Li Hui & Maria Vittoria Piana Brizio. 

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