14 March 2024

From Kooringal High to the West End: Wagga designer nominated for Olivier Award

| Chris Roe
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Marg Horwell is nominated for an Olivier Award for her costumes on Dorian Gray.

Marg Horwell is nominated for an Olivier Award for her costumes on Dorian Gray. Photo: Dorian Gray play.

Award-winning designer Marg Horwell continues to make waves on the global stage with a nomination for Best Costume at this year’s Olivier Awards.

The former Kooringal High student is a celebrated theatre, opera and film designer and made the shortlist for her work on The Picture of Dorian Gray along with the show’s star, Sarah Snook.

The stage adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic features Snook, best known for her award-winning performance in the TV series Succession, playing 26 characters.

“It’s a show that we made in Australia with Sydney Theatre Company during COVID in 2020,” Marg said, explaining that developing a one-woman show was a perfect fit for the pandemic.

“It was one of those magical moments in time where everyone was dedicated to one big thing and we put our all into it because not many people could put on shows during that time.

“It was a very ambitious show; very big in its scale and it felt very new in its form and of its time and, at that stage, I didn’t necessarily think it would have a future after COVID.”

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Not only was the show embraced by Sydney audiences, but it continued to tour Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland and was then adapted for a British audience.

“It just opened last month with a new performer, Sarah Snook and we’ve re-remade it with her at the Theatre Royal Haymarket,” Marg said,

“The Oliviers were just announced last night (Tuesday), which is so exciting, and Sarah was nominated as well for Best Actress, so I was really proud.”

Sarah Snook in the production of Dorian Gray.

Sarah Snook in the production of Dorian Gray. Photo: Dorian Gray play.

The Olivier Awards are named after legendary British thespian Sir Laurence Olivier and are the highest honour in British theatre.

Marg said it was exciting to take the play back to its London roots and receive such a positive reception.

“The Theatre Royal Haymarket actually has an Oscar Wilde room and two of his first shows were performed there so it’s got such a rich history and it just feels so ornate and huge,” she said.

“Coming from Australia with what was an incredibly ambitious show, we never really imagined it would reach such huge heights, so we’re super proud of it.”

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The production is technically complex, involving live footage beamed from multiple cameras onto overhead screens and mixed with pre-recorded elements.

Marg explained that it provided a unique opportunity to capture the historical roots of the story with a strong contemporary design.

“It was a pretty exciting prospect to be able to approach the ambition of making somebody 26 distinct people on stage,” she said.

“With the costumes, a lot of it is mashed up and referential from other shows or from films or from contemporary fashion.

“And of course it’s a story about someone who doesn’t age, so in my mind, that means anything from fashion in the last 100 years and it should feel like someone who has lived beyond what is possible.”

With the show running in London until May, Marg said that they were setting their sights on the US and, in the meantime, she was working on the next instalment of classic Victorian tales from director Kip Williams.

Dorian Grey is the first part of a trilogy that Kip has put together,” she explained.

“The second was Jekyll and Hyde that Sydney Theatre Company put on in 2022, and the one that I’m literally at my desk making a model for right now is Dracula.

“So we’re deep in the process and after Dorian opened, I went on a quick trip to Transylvania to go and see Dracula’s castle, which was the best!”

The annual Olivier Awards will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 14 April.

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