Joan Bergin has a long and distinguished career in theatre, television and film.
Her film career includes My Left Foot, The Field, In the Name of the Father and The Boxer. Other recent film work includes Reign of Fire, Veronica Guerin and The Prestige. Television highlights include Family, David Copperfield and The Tudors. Joan recently completed designing Vikings, a 10 part series for the US History Channel (Ashford Studios).
During the 1970s and 1980s she was In-House Designer for Focus Theatre and worked on many memorable plays such as A Doll’s House, Collier’s Friday Night and A Month in the Country. She also worked with Noel Pearson on many productions ranging from The Pirates of Penzance to Brian Friel’s Translations on Broadway. Recent design work for stage includes productions by the Gate Theatre, b*spoke theatre company and the Abbey Theatre.
Joan is represented by Gersh Productions.
- Three Emmy Awards, and five Emmy nominations for Best Costume Design for "The Tudors"
- Best Costume Design Irish Times Theatre Awards 2010 for "John Gabriel Borkman" (Abbey Theatre)
To understand these extraordinary people was a constant of searching for crumbs of knowledge as to what they did wear. No, they did not wear horns on their heads. I learnt they were obsessively clean even to the point of carrying a ring broach toilet set… nail file, toothpick, nose hair trimmer, nail clippers. They wove the cloth they wore with intricate bands of colour. Undershirts in embroidered linen. Furs used everywhere even to line breeches. Jewelry for rank and often to pin one item of dress to another. Most of all it turned on its head for me the dichotomy of being either a refined Christian or an uncouth Pagan. Viking dress was as refined as their white blond hair and skin. Wearing it they raped, pillaged and slaughtered to the dictates and beliefs of many gods. Alexander McQueen’s” savage beauty” often sprang to mind. At the end of the day Michael Hirst’s script tells of close knit families and communities who did terrible things to fulfill high aspirations for wealth and land… their clothes had to reflect a facet of that journey. Through research and in the way Costume Designers so often have to extrapolate and then soar with the bare facts given……
Joan Bergin and members of the cast discuss the inspiration behind the wardrobe of Vikings: http://www.history.com/shows/vikings/videos/vikings-costume-design
Behind the scenes
This should have been a high point. Riding on the confidence of Tudors the team and I set out to create a fantastic fairy tale of Arthurian legend. We went to India for Gods sake to buy the fabrics… gossamer silks, embroidered velvets, braids of every hue, beautiful jewelry and then……Starz.. with a producer for every actor wanted it hot, modern sexy! I found fantasy to be the hardest of all mediums to bring to a cogent visual completeness. Where other times creative consensus can exhilarate… fantasy needs nerves of steel and a single voice. O.K. there was a stunning costume or six particularly on Eva Green as Morgana… Camelot’s soul with Joseph Fines as its heart. Other worldly talents. Otherwise wounds to lick and valuable lessons learned.
Tudors was a hot bed of complexities to wrangle with. To delve as an Irish woman into the multi layers of the life and times of a hundred and more seminal English historical figures led by Henry VIII was oddly liberating. I surprised myself by the compelling need I had to do them each full justice. Endless research on their life and times, particularly their place in social history, helped to coalesce a visual multi layered sense of Tudor England. While diligently determined to avoid just another costume drama, a good budget still had its limits. Blessed with a workshop crew of gob-smacking multi talents… maestro tailors male and female, embroiderers, dyers, accessory builders. Museum quality full suits of armor. Towards the final fourth season we had morphed into a medieval workshop of high end skills. The awards that followed were the icing on the cake. The often expressed awe abroad that the costumes for all 4 seasons of TheTudors were built in an Irish workshop was its double icing.
Three Sam Shepard plays, Kicking a Dead Horse, Ages of the Moon and Curse of the Starving Classes :
One could be honest and say the reason to do a Sam Shepard play is you get to work with the King of Cool. The plays resonate with someone else’s culture and his mesmeric speech rhythms. He is meticulous that every piece of costume hits a true character note and delighted when you achieve it of your own validity. Stephen Rea’s and Sean McGinley’s performance in K.A.D.H. has entered my bloodstream and entire sentences float unbidden into brain crevices. We won’t even mention the wonder of Mr Rea’s black and white patent “co-coresspondent” shoes hand made for him in Yorkshire.