Fiddler on the Roof costumes: Chagall, Colour and Community

Tue 3 Jul 2018

Fiddler On The Roof Costume Designer Edd Lindley steps away from the sewing machine to share his thought process behind dressing our townsfolk of Anatevka.

Born into a Lithuanian Hassidic Jewish Family in 1887, in what was then the Pale of Settlement (the only part of the Russian Empire in which Jewish Communities were even allowed to exist), Russian-French artist Marc Chagall could easily have been one of the townsfolk of Anatevka. Like them, he was forced to move on, in his case first to Paris and later to the United States, in order to escape persecution in Russia and Europe. Another link to the people of Anatevka is the deep fondness and love for the community and town he grew up in that suffuses Chagall’s work, even years after he left Russia: so when I sat down with Sarah (the Director) to talk about designing this year’s Community Production, of a show which is all about community, there was only really one choice as a starting point.

Fiddler on the Roof – ‘To Life’ costumes

Chagall uses colour to great effect in his work, “jewel like” is I think my favourite description of his paintings in particular. He uses it playfully, but with serious intent. Full of symbolism and repeating metaphors and motifs (including the Fiddler himself, who appears in several paintings as well as the original poster for the show) nothing in Chagall’s paintings is there without a reason, everything adds to the overall message. Much like Tevye’s beloved traditions: it might not be immediately obvious why it’s done that way, but buried underneath there is always meaning.

Fiddler on the Roof – Miracle costumes

One of the interesting things about Fiddler is whilst it documents events that happened to the Jewish community across the Russian Empire at this time (and has happened many times throughout their history) it could also be about any number of minority communities, in any number of places or points in time across the world. Religion is rarely mentioned: community and tradition are. That, to me, is the core message in Fiddler on the Roof, and what I wanted to convey through the costumes: that feeling of a close, tight knit community and the tensions and struggles between that community and a largely uncaring, and sometimes aggressive, wider world.

Fiddler on the Roof – Matchmaker Girls costumes

Bringing all of this together, I hope it will be obvious to the audience how Chagall’s love of colour, and Fiddler on the Roof’s core message about community and belonging, have led to the costumes on stage. And above all, I hope bringing a little extra colour to Anatevka helps convey the story being told by this incredible community of a company, and backs up the message in the wonderful text of Fiddler on the Roof.


See the full gallery of Edd’s costume drawings on our Facebook page here.

Find out more about the show and book your tickets here.