Skip to main content

Taking fashion to the stage

Cunning Little Costumes

Tony Award-winning costume designer Roger Kirk (The King and I, 42nd Street) exquisitely designed beautiful costumes, which have featured in Victorian Opera and West Australian Opera’s productions of Cunning Little Vixen and will make their South Australian debut in State Opera’s production in May.

The production reunites him with a frequent collaborator, Stuart Maunder, now Artistic Director of State Opera South Australia. The two last worked together on Victorian Opera’s Sweeney Todd. On this production, they venture far from Dickensian London and deep into the woods.

Janácek’s charming opera is set against the backdrop of a forest, as we witness the juxtaposition of human and animal life. Past design approaches to the production have varied broadly, and Kirk had one note from Stuart: ‘don’t make it look like Cats!’

In design the costumes, Kirk’s approach was

“to find things that make the costumes look animal-like, without necessarily being one.”

This involved Kirk looking into a lot of existing fashion pieces, such as coats with fur trim which would be used as inspiration for characters such as the Fox. For instance, you imagine a child in yellow and black stripes and immediately think of a bee. You start with a football jersey, add badminton racquets and you’ve got wings.

Kirk has used vibrant and elaborate designs to render a strong and powerful distinction between the two worlds.

“It’s just as well I started out on Playschool. It’s proved the perfect training for the way I needed to think about designing these costumes!”


The human world, drawn from the 20’s and 30’s style, remains monochromatic and stark in comparison to the variation and vibrancy drawn from the natural world.

“We need a clear distinction between the worlds on stage, and colour is the perfect way to achieve that, in this instance.


Cunning Little Vixen comes to the Ridley Centre on 18, 22 and 24 of May.