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From the mascot’s mouth – notes from a costume performer, part 2

5 top tips for a professional character performance

the-toony-bin-bassett-houndMark Velvick is a talented costume performer based in the south of England. Mark, through his company The Toony Bin, he has played a wide range of characters from football mascots to well-known children’s characters. In his second blog, Mark shares with us his top 5 tips for a professional character performance: 

You may already know how to be a costumed performer but are you fun and friendly or lifeless and boring? There’s a difference between being a character and being a good character. Here are 5 ideas to improve your performance.

You’re not playing musical statues unless you are.

Unless you are actually playing musical statues or posing for a photo, one of the worst things to do is stand still for long periods of time or just look like you have no enthusiasm. It can be tough doing 30 to 40-minute stints in a big bulky costume but even if you’re just wiggling about and waving it’s better than standing still. Look around for people coming close and make sure to exaggerate your motion.  Waving is one thing but you really need to ‘wave’. Give it bags of energy or it won’t really translate to the people around you.

Know your limits.

Only you can know your personal limits but it’s not until you put the costume on for the first time that you really find them. Try to arrive at an event early if you’ve never worn the costume before and see if you can get time to practice walking, bending and jumping (if possible). Costumes are restrictive and it’s hard to know how much until you’re finally in it. Trying to offer a high five or a hug and finding you can’t move your arms far enough to do either properly can make things awkward for everyone involved and not knowing how big the costume is can lead to other problems entirely.

Know the character.

This is very important. If the character is established, do some research. Whether you’re performing for charity or as a copyrighted character, you need to know their gestures and actions. Wearing a ninja turtle costume and frolicking about like a fairy isn’t going to go down well. If the character is new, are they male, female, fat or skinny? Do they look cute, inquisitive, tough or angry? You need to be able to bring that character to life and make them believable, so knowing the personality beforehand can be a big help.

Strike a pose.

When it comes to having your picture taken, the same pose over and over again gets boring very quickly. Practice several easy poses you can strike at a moment’s notice or see about getting the people taking part to strike one with you. It might be tricky to get their attention in the beginning but keep trying and eventually, you’ll get the hang of it. Keep the poses family friendly and try to take the character you’re playing into consideration. After all, a Power Ranger won’t be doing a standard thumbs up, add some action to it and think ‘martial arts’.

Ham it up.

Be active, be playful and exaggerate everything. You’re there to help people have a good time but there’s nothing that says you can’t have one yourself. Interact with people, if at a fairground try playing the games or going on the rides. Interact with props around you and point to things in an over the top manner. Dance to any and all music that’s playing. Pose in random locations to give people photo opportunities they wouldn’t normally get. Make everything a game, just never take things too far.

If you missed part 1 of  ‘From the Mascot’s mouth,’ read it here