Tuesday, 26 March 2013

CATS (UK Tour) Cats Make Up - Becoming Coricopat with Richard Astbury

Coricopat is the male of the twins in the musical Cats. He shares very similar make-up and costume to the female - Tantomile. Throughout the show as the psychic cats Coricopat and Tantomile are always the first to hear and react to everything and when they do they move in perfect sync. Not only do they have a difficult job on stage but their make up is one of the most complicated too...

The show goes up at 7:30pm each night and I joined Richard Astbury in his dressing room a whole three hours before the show to begin make up at 4:30pm!

Richard begins applying the first base, an Oriental paint stick, which looks rather like a dodgy fake tan. Sponging it everywhere but his mouth area which he then fills in white. Coricopat's wig is quite high and the costume neck quite low so Richard has the most to paint including his ears and down to the bottom of his neck. After each different section or colour, powder is applied and brushed in to keep the colours dry and stop them smudging. During the show this also helps the make-up in its battle against sweat. 

The first detailed part are the eyes and Richard begins with the black detail. It takes extreme concentration, particularly to match the left side with the right. In the very beginning Make Up Supervisor Maria Cave provided each member of the cast with the original designs, she would paint one half of their face and they would have to copy it on the other side. Each member of the cast has to do their own make up and some of them, including Richard are understudies for other cats and have to learn their make up too! Richard covers for Rum Tum Tugger, Macavity and Skimbleshanks. 

Once the black flecks above the eye are done, white and brown is then added in, flicking it upwards. Richard's eye design differs very slightly to the original design, the flecks are slightly bigger so that it matches Tantomile's (who has a smaller forehead) and the eye make up meets the wig which sits quite high. Even at this far into the process after half an hour, there is still no one else in make up. There's no else even around yet, apart from Barry... making a cup of tea. He's a swing, he covers the older male Cats and wasn't on that night. 

Next are whiskers, and luckily these aren't symmetrical. First they're painted on white and later black is added to accentuate them. The first black paint added to the mouth area is to create a nose, painting the underside around the nostrils, a black line down the the philtrum and then out across the lips. At this point it's important to put the powder on immediately to stop the black upper lip and white lower lip from merging and becoming grey when you close your mouth. 

Once the black detail around the whiskers has been finished it's time to head into the wig department. Richard's wig cap is fitted by the deputy wigs mistress Jess Bishop. All of the cast come here to get their wigs and to have them fitted but first Richard has to take his back to the dressing room for the next stage of the make-up. The colours in Coricopat's wig are the same as the make up, but have to line up on the face so the fusion between hair and paint isn't obvious from the stage. 

The neck is painted black, all down the sides, into the hairline and completely covers the back of the neck. Flecks of black extend from the back of the neck into the orange colour at the front. Other flecks of white and brown are added too. 

After 90 minutes it's time for physical and vocal warm up. For the cast who have all now begun their transformations there is still a lot to do afterwards. The wig room is very busy after warm up, microphones are fed through the wig caps and fixed into place at the top of the head. For Richard, once his wig is secured there are a final bits of make up to touch up on before costume. The amount of powder required dulls the colours of the make up and so this is the time to make it all stand out again by going over the bits that have faded. 

As Mister Mistoffelees would say - "PRESTO!" the make up is complete. It's now only 15 minutes until showtime, and Richard is ready for costume. Shoes, tails and accessories are kept together in individual boxes for each character, after collecting these and putting them together with the catsuit itself.... we have Coricopat!

You can watch a time-lapse of Richard's lengthy transformation in under 3 minutes... If only it really took that long!

Richard is one of a 28 strong cast for the UK/Europe Tour of Cats so his lengthy transformation is actually only a very small part of the overall daily preparation for the show. Here is a little glimpse at what else goes on behind the scenes at Cats! (As with all of the pictures, click on them to view them larger)

Joanna Ampil who plays Grizabella first appears on stage for the opening as a kitten, her make up looks like this until she later adds the tears and wrinkles required for the ex-Glamour Cat Grizabella. (Production photography by Alessandro Pinna). 

Cameron Ball plays Admetus at the beginning of the show (left) but transforms mid show into Macavity (right) which requires some alterations. 

Will Lucas begins his make up for Bill Bailey and James Darch uses a close up mirror to add the finishing touches to Alonzo. 

The wigs on one of the tables include Skimbleshanks, Old Deuteronomy, Munkustrap and Gus (left), Lily Frazer's Demeter wig and Dawn Williams' Jemima sit on the top shelf (right) and the costumes are all stored together and brought up to the dressing rooms to put them on. 

There are some extra backstage pictures taken during the get in for the show on the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre's blog which you can read here

Cats continues in Wolverhampton until Saturday 30th March and tours the UK and Europe for 14 months through into 2014 - more details of the tour can be found on the official website


  1. Definitely,what a fantastic blog and enlightening posts,I definitely will bookmark your website.Best Regards!
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  2. Thank-you so much! I'm glad you enjoy reading it!

  3. This is absolutely fascinating! Cats has always been one of my favourite musicals and as an artist I can really appreciate the efforts put into the make up. Also, what a handsome young man Richard is!

  4. This was really cool! I'll be honest and tell you that I'm not even into musicals but I read every single word of this! It's fascinating!