Treasure Island – Silvers Leg

Dear Readers,

It has been a busy busy few weeks. Treasure Island has been filling my life in many many ways… Late October I started having meetings with Caroline Sharman at the New Theatre Royal Portsmouth and a few emails with designer Simon Higlet and costumer Naomi Gibbs I started work on some puppets and props for the production. This included a wooden leg I would have to wear as Long John Silver.

Simon and I both agreed it should be a bit like an action man leg… pivoted in the middle. this would enable me to have some movement in the leg.

I made a basic structure for the leg out of a dense blue foam, a type of flexible styrofoam, the sort of stuff you would pad a seat out of.

the leg was in three parts the upper/thigh part, the lower leg/shin part, and the foot. it had to look like it was made from wood and look accurate when bent/pivoted.

 This is the leg partly painted. once i had constructed the shape of the leg, I heated a knife and sires to an extream heat and used (in a well ventilated space) the hot knife to carve into the plastic foam.

I took the opportunity with the leg to create something that wasn’t just a wooden leg, but also had a story. i liked the idea of silver spending his spare moments at sea just whittling things into his wooden leg. so i drew up a design of an octopus reaching its arms around the leg and up towards a ship on the waves. i also carved certain character names into the leg. names of silver friend from the book, like flint, blind pew etc.

once i had carved this design i then needed to make the leg look wooden, so i did this by carving grain and slits through the leg and through the carvings. I also had to carve out the picot points to give the pivot illusion. then it was time to paint the leg. a couple of white undercoats, and then with the wood effect paint work.

The is the leg on. The lower part had a zip running up the back hidden under a material flap painted with the same wood effect. Once I had painted the leg  i used tin foil on the pivot joints to give them a metal look. i then varnished the leg several times to give it strength and also a nice wooden sheen. then i had to make the foot.

I used one of my old Crocs Boots, as a base, then stuck foam over it and carved into it. Using Evostick (i used a lot of this on the project) i stuck some foil to felt and cut out some metal bits to dress the wooden leg. in an attempt to make the leg and foot look functional and hard wearing.

with the foot done the last thing to do was age the leg. I worked from the foot upwards, give the foot especially as slightly old moldy look as if its gotten damp a lot, and traveled that up the leg. i rusted the metal parts, and adorned the leg with some leather strops and nail head to make it look like its bee repaired and held together.

this is the leg on:

now all i needed was the rest of the costume, a script and a parrot!

Parrots were my other obsession… check back for more updates on treasure island !

Chris xx

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