Juniors get set for Christmas panto

PUBLISHED: 23:59 05 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:58 03 March 2010

IF you see the Terminator or Darth Maul taking a casual stroll down your street don't worry, you don't have to book an appointment at your nearest health clinic.

IF you see the Terminator or Darth Maul taking a casual stroll down your street don't worry, you don't have to book an appointment at your nearest health clinic.

The chances are the man behind the mask is Ipswich make-up artist Gary Chaplin, who is not averse to practising his skills before venturing out into the open.

He recalls the moment when he almost scared the living daylights out of his neighbour. "I stuck on a monkey mask I had made and was doing some ironing in the living room when it started raining outside," said the 28-year-old.

"My washing was out and I ran out to get it in."

Meanwhile his unsuspecting neighbour looked up and spotted what he thought was a monkey outside.

After recovering his senses the poor man commented that the thing about Gary was that you never knew what he was going to look like next.

Gary has taken on the task of doing the make-up for this years Co-op Juniors pantomime, "The Wizard of Oz," which is on show at the Ipswich Regent later this month.

He leads a team of two with the overall responsibility for the make-up and masks of four main characters: the cowardly lion, wicked witch of the west, tin man and scarecrow.

Gary's professional skills and attention to detail provide an important touch to the award-winning Co-op Junior shows, which have been likened to West End style productions.

The talented make-up artist is a great fan of the Wizard of Oz film which he saw for the first time when he was 14 year's old. The end result of his work is outstanding.

"Being made-up like this helps you get into the part more. Other cast members are quite envious," said lion Richard Rumbellow, who will be wearing one of Gary's foam latex masks.

Gary's work on the Co-op Junior's production doesn't stop when all the make-up is done. He will also be waiting in the wings every night of the show to make sure everything flows smoothly.

Speaking in a crowded coffee bar in the town centre after a night out he talks passionately about make-up.

It seems an odd line for a man to get involved in. But when he explains what led him down this path it falls into place.

"When I was little my friends would be out playing with action men I was thinking about make-up," said Gary, who juggles his interest with a full-time office job.

"They didn't see it as anything unusual," he said. "In fact they quite liked it. If they were playing cowboys and Indians I could make their wounds look realistic."

When they were playing football, he would be drawing or playing around with model kits.

He is a great film buff and his interest was sparked when he was ten and saw the "Clash of the Titans" _famed for its special effects.

And as a teenager it was around Halloween when Gary's talents really started to come into their own.

He would create a multitude of characters, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame with a half-cut football attached to his back, much to the amusement of his contemporaries.

Gary is fascinated in movies and is always looking at the make-up side. "If I am watching a horror film and see the seams or edges of a mask, it really annoys me. In a film if there is a 40ft screen, it just doesn't look good."

He can also do teeth mould caps, facial hair – the list is simply endless. In addition he can add 20 – 50 years to a volunteer which means they invariably end up looking like their parents.

Gary has done various work at the Odeon, for shows such as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

He has also worked for Brannigans, Chicagos and Liquid creating characters such as vampires, the Terminator, witches and zombies – which often look ten times scarier than those seen in films.

He's also dressed as Terminator to hand out leaflets and has created latex masks for a stilt walker working in Ibiza.

Among his many skills is doing make up for weddings or nights out. "There is so many things you can do with make-up," he said. "I can even do non-surgical face-lifts or get rid of tattoos.

"I love doing weddings. You arrive and there's this girl in a track-suit. Then her hair is done and her make up. She puts the dress on and when she walks down the stairs and you think, wow, what a transformation. The prize is being part of the finished product.

At home Gary has a whole library of books and magazines. He has also successfully contacted top make-up artists in the films such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and From Dusk 'Till Dawn, to get tips on a host of different techniques.

His ultimate ambition is to work on films or alongside models as the make-up artist in the Max Factor adverts.

But self-taught Gary recognises that even after 20 years of practice, there is still more to learn. There is no end to his skills and he has even extended his field into animatronics.

He can create all sorts of special affects such as severed heads or fingers. "It is all about creating an illusion," he says. "It is a bit like being a magician in one sense."

Gary, who is principally working on the lion on the night of the production will have two helpers on show nights – his brother Alan, 29 and friend, Sarah Flower, 21.

One will be working on the tin man and the other on the witch. Whoever is done first will set to work on the scarecrow. He is also on hand for any other cast members.

It's hectic work as all the main characters, such as Julie, who plays the witch, will be have at least two changes. Julie will also have to be strapped into a harness to "fly" about the stage.

"It will all turn out brilliantly, I am really looking forward to it. The experience is going to be fantastic.

" When I went into rehearsals I saw the massive wardrobe and was standing there like a kid in a candy shop."

Always the eccentric he is bound to surprise the characters of the show emerging with pointy ears or a big nose. "They have got to be prepared for what they see. It is all a bit of fun," he said.

n The Wizard of Oz is on at the Ipswich Regent from December 21 to 30. For bookings telephone the box office on Ipswich 433100.

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