Made Up – North East


Marlien van Liempt has been working with us since January as a placement from University of Birmingham’s MRes Directing course. For about a month she was been researching statistics for Of All The People In All The World in Freiburg, researching materials for Trailblazers at the Council House, preparing materials for Matholympics at Washwood Heath Academy and administering casting for Made Up. After all this office based work it seemed only fair to offer her a chance to be part of a research trip to the North East of England for Made Up, arranged for us by DEP Arts and Arc Stockton-on-Tees as part of their Reach audience development project. Here is her report:

James asked me whether I wanted to come on a trip to the North East of England to do research for Stan’s Cafe’s new production, Made Up. Although I wasn’t going to say “No” to any chance I got during my placement, I was a bit concerned about the actual research and audience development. It seemed to me that half of the population was already an expert on the subject. But perhaps women don’t often share their thoughts and feelings about lipstick and moisturizer, eyeliners and eyebrow pencils, at least, not with the men in our lives.

We spent two days driving around North Yorkshire and Northumberland in what turned out to be a true road trip, complete with me reading the map incorrectly on several occasions, English dishes in local diners (a true delight for a foreigner) and a bleak walk along a seafront.

On the first day I woke up early and wished for a world in which no one wore make-up. But I wasn’t bold enough to go without it, I felt I had to at least put something on as we were going to talk about it all day.

So on we went to Saltburn-by-the-Sea, where in the beautiful community theatre, The U3A Play Reading Group showed us the delight of being a retired woman: these awesome ladies spend their Tuesday afternoons reading plays, drinking tea and cracking jokes. Their kindness and humour was truly inspiring. They told us about the role make-up has played in their lives and many admitted to still ‘making it up’ as they go along. This in contrast to the beauticians in the local spa who explained that they can do ANYTHING with make-up, including making a man’s beard disappear. I have been wondering ever since how they would do this.

The Washington Theatre Group women were very honest in stating if they were wearing no makeup they’d rather walk into a room full of men than women. Speaking to Drama Students from Stockton Sixth Form College we had our eyes to the world of Youtube makeup tutorials and beauty blogs (we now know what contouring is). Over the days it became clear that makeup has everything to do with confidence. Even if that confidence appeared to have nothing to do with the gaze of men: it is all about getting the feeling that one is “ready for the day”.

Driving home in the night, my terrible map skills led us off course and James swerved the car to follow brown signs to the impressive statue of the Angel of the North. It suddenly rose in the dark and covered the stars. We pulled over and I noticed I was trembling as I walked up the hill towards the statue. But I learned one really important thing on this trip: The Angel of the North might be scary at night, it is nothing compared to what most women feel when they have to walk into the beauty section of a department store: that is true horror.

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