On Stage/Backstage
Romeo, Juliet, And Michelle March 27, 2014

With a new Romeo & Juliet production opening in Paris at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint Martin, posters are all over the Metro featuring the young lovers. We popped in, to get the lowdown on the look from the head makeup artist Michelle Bernet.

Romeo, Juliet, And Michelle

March 27, 2014

With a new Romeo & Juliet production opening in Paris at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint Martin, posters are all over the Metro featuring the young lovers. We popped in, to get the lowdown on the look from the head makeup artist Michelle Bernet.

The Théâtre de la Porte Saint Martin in Paris is a work of architectural creativity. To go from the Artist’s Entrance to the dressing rooms is to pass through a labyrinth that crosses back and forth between two adjoined buildings. Waiting for us in the makeup loge, Michelle proved to be great company, regaling us with stories about the show, even pulling out the “look book” for us.

Working alongside costume designer Michel Dussarat again - they first worked together over 10 years ago thanks to genius director Jérôme Savary, and have collaborated so many times since, Michelle has lost count – Bernet was given a very precise brief for the hair and makeup = end of the 1940’s, Southern Italian cinema.
“It doesn’t get clearer than that,” she laughed. “Michel and I have the same points of reference. So when he told me what he and the director were after, I could see it clearly in my mind."

Though dramatic – it is Shakespeare, after all – the makeup look Michelle has created for this production is highly cinematographic. Natural, quite minimalist, but, as the lighting is striking, with highly defined features, it’s an ethereal, beautiful look. However, for an experienced makeup artist, relatively straightforward. It’s in the hair styling that Michelle has really had to dig in. “I was asked to make Juliet decoiffée – she has purposely messy hair. So that was a starting point. But there are also lots of male characters from a different era, a time when hair was ‘done’, so I have to take care of a lot of wigs and haircuts. That’s where the real work has been for me on Romeo and Juliet.

Asked about her can’t-live-without MAKE UP FOR EVER product for this production, Michelle pulls out a well-worn Sculpting Kit, laughing as she shows us how little is left. “I use it all the time, all the time, all the time. And on everyone! There’s next to nothing left. The colors are right, they work on everyone. I have found other contouring products thicker, or chalky, but this one has a fantastic texture. I can use a little bit, so it’s barely-there, or, if I need more coverage, I can cake it on. Either way, it works perfectly. Romeo and Juliet thank you for the Sculpting Kit!” 

Leaving Michelle’s den of creativity, we have to be guided back to the exit to be sure we don’t end up lost backstage. Back in the Metro, the Romeo and Juliet posters come alive for us now, knowing the secrets behind the looks.