Skip to content
Our Mercury Tickets box office is currently closed to the public and our operations are taking place remotely while our team work safely from home. Phone lines remain open Tue - Thu, 11am - 3pm and our emails and are monitored Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm. Thank you.
Make It

Make-up Workshop and Exhibition Shows How Creativity Transcends Age

Posted 24th Aug 16

See the final portraits in our Digby Gallery exhibition, until Monday 3 October. Free entry from 10am Mon-Sat.

“We all know the major characters in Shakespeare’s plays, but what of the supporting roles?”

This was the question make-up artist Mel Winning posed to her group of students at the start of a two-day theatrical make-up workshop at the end of July.

The workshop, held in the Mercury’s Studio Theatre space, introduced participants to theatrical make-up skills including technique, application and character design.

Make-up small image 1

Bringing Shakespeare’s Characters to Life

The participants, a group of 16 older adults, were tasked with creating make-up designs for some of the supporting characters in Shakespeare’s plays.

As Mel explains: “Being a hair and make-up artist and designer, I have to consider every character that makes an appearance in the play. Shakespeare sharply observed not only his leading characters, but the nurses, blacksmiths, courtesans, landladies, clowns and fantasy characters. These were the unsung heroes that often added a link to the plot, provided some light relief with humour and were a colourful glimpse into the everyday working life in the Elizabethan period.”

Mel began working as a freelance designer 20 years ago and regularly delivers workshops at the V&A Museum. She spent the first day of the workshop teaching participants about character design, getting them to think about the characterisation of these supporting roles and how they might be portrayed through make-up.

Make-up small image 3

Hands-on Creativity

Our new make-up students then paired up and set to work on transforming their workshop partner into their selected character using the design and application techniques they had just learnt.

There were several tea breaks and, most importantly, biscuits were always on hand, as participants explored different looks and tricks of the trade.

False beards were applied, lips were painted, and gaping wounds were created to bring to life characters such as the Gravedigger, Nurse and Banquo’s Ghost.

On the second day the students were ready for their professional photoshoot.

Each student prepared their workshop partner for the shoot, applying make-up and adding costume and props to complete the character’s look.

During the shoot participants tried out their acting skills as they brought their character to life in front of Mel’s camera. Candid shots, on smartphones and tablets, were shared amongst participants, who turned into budding photographers themselves!

The resulting images really demonstrate the hard work and creativity put in over just two days by our participants and show their ability to learn new skills

The exhibition of photography will be displayed in the Mercury Theatre’s Digby Gallery from 3rd September to 15th October, coinciding with our Made in Colchester production of Much Ado About Nothing.

Make-up main image

Getting Involved

Older adults can themselves be the unseen and unsung characters in our communities.

The Mercury Theatre’s group for the over 50s, Act V, provides a space to explore creative skills, build confidence, socialise and share stories over a cup of tea. Arts activities such as workshops and theatre trips are effective in boosting both mental and physical health in the older generation. Act V workshops include drama, singing, Bollywood dance, and even stage combat.

Our Senior Matinees offer the chance for a cup of tea and a chat, a pre-show talk from our creative team, followed by the performance of one of our Made in Colchester productions.

Further information on our activities for adults can be found at:

Tickets for Act V or a Senior Matinee can be bought via Ticket Sales in person, by phone: 01206 573 948, or from this website.

Posted By Rachel Fitzgerald

Rachel is our Creative Learning and Talent Projects Producer. She produces activities and events for community groups, such as Chinese New Year and Nepalese New Year celebrations. Rachel also programs our Act V group for older adults, oversees our Relaxed Performances, sets up projects for communities in the Colchester area, and assists with the coordination of the department.


Supporting Your Community

Posted 1st May 20

Our Engagement Producer, Matthew Jewson, has been taking a look at some of the wonderful charitable activities taking place in and around Colchester during these difficult times. “As life continues…

Make It

A Connected Community

Posted 17th Apr 20

As the country looks to extend lockdown we’re all still having to adjust to this new normal and around the globe many of us are utilising this unprecedented moment…

From Make It
What's On
Make It

Mercury Youth Theatre – End of Term Round Up

Posted 17th Jul 20

In March, the Coronavirus pandemic meant that our regular Youth Theatre sessions had to stop to ensure our young people’s safety. At the time, our young people had been working…

Follow Us For More