Posts Tagged ‘ costume ’

Quick changes

One of the most important skills to learn in theatre, whether as a performer or a member of the backstage team, is the art of doing things quickly and quietly, often in the dark.  The set has to be shifted, microphones need to be switched from person to person, props need to be put in place, complicated traffic systems negotiated so that the right people are on the stage at the right time, and most entertaining of all, costumes need to be changed, often faster than you would think possible.

I have written before about the excitements that costume changes brought to a production of Dido and Aeneas, and I think it’s fair to say that I’ll never experience anything quite so manic again.  Most shows, though, offer their moments of fun and games with costume – so much so that it’s almost a shame when a show comes along which involves the same set of clothes throughout.

One of the most exciting costume changes I’ve ever had a hand in was not my own.  This was during Titanic.  The actor playing Charles, a second class passenger, had not been attending rehearsals and eventually dropped out of the production, leaving us with a bit of a problem.  Frantic phone calls were made to practically every man who could act and sing in the area, but with no joy – given the size of the cast, we already had more men on stage than you would normally expect, and those who weren’t involved had already decided not to do the show for their own various reasons.  So the man playing Wallace Hartley, the Titanic’s bandleader, was asked to step in, as there were no scenes where both Charles and Hartley absolutely *had* to appear on stage at the same time.  He was cunningly disguised to aid the illusion of Charles and Hartley being different people (Charles now had glasses and a beautiful moustache), but we were left with one moment which was going to be very hard to pull off.  Shortly before the end of the first act, before anyone starting worrying about icebergs, Charles and his fiancée (Caroline) had a scene and walked off stage – this was immediately followed by a scene in the first class smoking lounge, where Hartley was supposed to be playing the piano.  The piano was dispensed with, as it was considered too heavy to shift about, and Hartley’s violin substituted – still, how did the same actor appear at the end of one scene and the beginning of the next when there was no break between them, only a change in the lighting state on stage?

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Wardrobe malfunction!

It was one of those moments when you really hope that nobody in the audience is looking your way.  If I’m lucky, all eyes were centre stage gazing adoringly at Aladdin and Princess Jasmine.  In the final few seconds of last night’s show, you see, I had a serious wardrobe malfunction.

The Genie costume took a little bit of getting used to for me, as it exposes more flesh than I am accustomed to exposing and certainly could not be worn by a lady librarian.  The main items are some baggy trousers, a hat, two cuffs and a diamond-shaped thing that covers my shoulders and bits of my chest and back, attaching to the front and back of the trousers via two of the diamond’s points.  It was intimidating at first (and has required the use of fake tan to avoid the make-up procedure taking several days), but I have become accustomed to it and can now say that it is a great costume.  When it behaves itself, that is.

Last night, happily singing and dancing my way though the big finale song, I reached a moment when the principals are all on a raised platform while the dancers do crazy stuff below us and realised that my costume was coming adrift.  It is held together at the front by two hooks and eyes and a popper.  The popper had come undone and I hastily reaffixed it during the next bout of hectic freestyle movement, making sure that my back was to the audience.  All was well, or so I thought.

Perhaps my next few movements (we were very near the end) were more violent than usual.  Perhaps something was in the air (others had costume issues as well).  Who knows.  But in the final couple of bars, we all take a final bow.  As we did so, the hat decided to make its presence known and I struggled to keep it on.  We stood up, and I felt pleased with myself for not losing it, but worse was to come.  On the final beat of the music we all stretch an arm up high and grin madly.  I stretched, and all three fastenings came undone as my costume made a bid for freedom.  I had to grab hold as quickly as possible to prevent the diamond flying too far up and the trousers falling down (they are only figure-hugging near the ankles) and as the lights went out, the hat finally decided enough was enough – it did not want to be on my head for another second.  Blackout, front cloth in and…laughter.  Trying to hold my errant costume together, I could not help but laugh.  I had no idea if the audience had noticed (if they had, they’d have gained a very brief glimpse of a lot more Genie chest than they were accustomed to), or if the director had noticed.  At the beginning of the run, I’d have been mortified and horribly embarrassed, but nine performances in, it just struck me as hilarious.  How a week can change your point of view!

Singing Librarian flashback: Dido and Aeneas – costume dramas

I think it’s about time for another flashback.  Another long one, I’m afraid.  Summer 2003, The Gulbenkian Theatre, Canterbury.  Dido and Aeneas, performed in a double bill with The Ephesian Matron.

There are many things I could tell you about this production, but the thing that sticks most clearly in my mind is costume, and I know I shall never forget the June evening when we had our first fully-costumed run-through of the show.  Nor will anyone else present.  It was one of those evenings. Continue reading

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