Saturday, 28 June 2014

Anne Boleyn Part 3

The following photographs are from the final dress rehearsal and taken by Barry Parsons of East Anglian Photographic Services. Thanks Barry! Set design by Ginny Bain, constructed by James Utting. Lighting design by Tom Porteous. Stage Manager Sarah Farmer. Directed by Clare Howard

The ghost of Anne Boleyn.(Rebecca Aldred) I wonder what's in that bag!

James 1st (Chistopher Neale) and Cecil (Pete Sessions) have a stand off

James is rather taken with George Villiers (Steven Scase)

Henry is rather taken with Anne

Warren Ray Lynch as Henry

Sloop and Simpkin. Cromwell's hard men (Alex Cowley and James McDonald)

Anne searches for William Tyndale

Lady Jane Seymore and Lady Celia read the forbidden text

Cardinal Wolsey (Peter Wood) and Anne

James 1 in Anne's coronation dress

Onstage costume changes are always tricky

James has an audience with the Anglican clergy

...and the Puritans

Dr John Reynolds (Peter Woods) and Lancelot Andrewes (Ian Macdonald)

Cromwell (George Norton) and Jane Seymore (Hattie Amey)

Anne meets the country folk and Tyndale

Anne and Cromwell saying Martin Luther's prayer

Queen Anne with country women (Eileen Collisson and Kelly Brooke)

Another show over and done and what a big one! My heartfelt and huge thanks go to the following people - 

Chrissie Blackburn
Holly Hambidge
Martin Frost
Eileen Collisson
Edna Rudd
Judith Symonds
Sarah Prince White
Ginny and Hero Bain
Bethany Hughes
Anne Giles

See you soon for the next one..........

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Anne Boleyn Part 2

And so we approach production week. All fittings with the actors are now complete. The wardrobe has been a hub of tea fueled, fevered activity and we are down to one side of A4 of to do's. I'm sure this will all change on Monday at the first dress rehearsal.

The Anne Boleyn dress is now finished. Sean from Reflective Arts came in and took some pictures of the fitting sessions with Rebecca.
Rebecca in her  Spanish farthingale.

Pinning the bodice for a perfect fit

Adding embelishments
Some adjustments were needed in fitting the sleeves. They were very tight under the arm

The finished article

Slightly less impressive but no less beautiful. The scene in the play where Henry's eyes first meet Anne's is a court masque. Anne with Lady Rochford, Jane Seymore and a couple of other ladies in waiting are dressed in similar gowns and masks. I knew we had some green velvet (curtains!) but there wasn't enough for 5 dresses. We didn't have the budget to buy another 10 metres of velvet at £16 per metre so I hunted around for an alternative..........

Basic court masque dress. They will be worn with an underskirt and a Tudor shirt
..........and found this beautiful embroidered taffeta reduced to £2 per metre!

Would loved to have made the masks but no time. These bought ones aren't far off though

This is Warren Ray Lynch who is playing Henry. I'd made this splendid gold outfit a few years ago for the Henry VIII in 'A Man For All Seasons' about 5 years ago and it only got about 5 minutes of fame on stage. As luck would have it, it fitted Warren a treat so after a bit of work here and there, it will be Henry's costume for the Masque scene where he meets Anne

This is another Henrican gown I found in our collection. It's from the costumier's 'Nathans' and dates back to at least the 1950s. 'Nathans' later became the world famous costume company 'Angels'. It really is a substantial piece of work. It's incredibly heavy. I was hoping that this would be Henry's entrance costume but after 2 dress rehearsals it's looking less likely that it will be used as the change is too quick (too heavy to use Velcro!) and too hot!! Quite sad about this as I think you will agree that it does look very impressive. This kind of thing happens a lot at dress rehearsal. You really don't know what will be practical until it's on an actor on stage. This has also happened to the beautiful English hoods made by Eileen. They covered the ears completely and the actors just couldn't hear properly so they had to be cut. They will definitely be going on display though. You can't have too much ego as a designer!!

This is King James (Christopher Neale) who came to the English throne in 1603, just over 60 years after Anne was beheaded. The challenge here was to show the time difference. Fashion hadn't changed that much but there were subtle differences.Ruffs had been and gone (almost). Breeches now reached to the knee and there was a lot of lace, everywhere.

King James is portrayed as a very flamboyant character in the play so I really went to town with the ribbons and lace. The outfit below is an onstage costume change made doubly difficult by the fact that he keeps wandering off during it! Trying to make his breeches stay up was the biggest challenge and one of trial and error. In the end, we used ribbons, and press studs and hooks and eyes!

I could go on but tomorrow is first night (Thursday June 19th at 7.30 pm). There will be lots of sweaty shirts and tights to wash tomorrow and hopefully not to many alterations. The backstage team take over and I can start working on the July show.

I will hopefully post some production pictures very soon. In the meantime, come and see the show. It's excellent.

For information of times, prices and for booking, please follow this link -

Friday, 16 May 2014

Anne Boleyn

Hello! I'm back again with what looks like being a bit of an epic journey. The Maddermarket Theatre's June production is Howard Brenton's 'Anne Boleyn' and it will be one of the biggest shows we have staged (from a costume perspective) for a very long time. We have a cast of 24 and it spans several years so that is a lot of costumes.

I will be making quite a bit for this show. A lot of our 'Tudorbethan' costumes are quite generic and at least 40 years old.They are also very small! The style at Henry's court was quite specific. It was the link between the late medieval and the Elizabethan. Anne, in particular, was an advocate of fashion and the French style and I wanted this to be reflected in the play.

As usual. I have created a Pinterest board for research and inspiration. You can follow it here -

Below is a shot from the initial programme photo session (taken on my iphone!)

Rebecca Aldred as Anne. 

This dress is one from our wardrobe that we are refurbishing for the show. Anne is wearing a French hood which she made fashionable. All of the hoods in this production have been made by one of my incredible volunteers, Eileen Collisson, following the patterns in The Tudor Tailor.

They also have a very good website for all things Tudor.

One of the first things I do in preparation for a show is to make a costume plot. I read the play whilst make notes on a graph detailing what costumes are needed by each actor in every scene. They can often be fitted easily on an A4 sheet of paper. This one runs to two A3 sheets!

I found this amazing fabric for only £3 a metre. Just as well as the dress needs 10 metres
Procrastination. Black on bronze or bronze on black. Must make sure the motif is central

Anne's dress under construction. Spanish farthingale just seen
Jobs still to do on the dress
Underskirt in the same fabric as the turn back on the sleeves
Attach foresleeves
 Line and embellish bodice
Attach skirt to bodice and sleeves to bodice
Most importantly, have a fitting with Rebecca to make sure it fits!

And that's just one costume!

One thing to note is that although I'm following the patterns in the Tudor Tailor, I am adapting them for stage use. The gown above is traditionally made in separate parts.A chemise, a kirtle, a pair of bodies and the gown. This isn't practical for the theatre so I cheat a little to make it all into one garment that fastens at the back, instead of fastening at the front underneath a placket that is then pinned into place. Far too complicated in a show where some of the changes will be done on stage by the actors.

Five weeks left before opening night so next week I'll need to start the fittings.............

Monday, 24 February 2014

Absolutely the last donation for a while!

One final donation from a particularly bountiful fortnight. I was out when this arrived but luckily Dawn excepted it on my behalf.

It is a beautiful blouse circa 1890 in almost perfect condition.

Heavily pin tucked black satin lined with white silk

Trimmed with black sequin and seed bead encrusted lace

Small hidden pocket sewn to the cotton lining. This used to contain a scented handkerchief or posy. You can also just see some of the internal boning.

At first we weren't sure why the waistband was a lot bigger than the rest of the blouse but we think it could possible have been a maternity garment.

Close up of the neck  with lace and beading

Beautiful details on the cuffs and rosettes on the waistband

There are no labels inside but that is not uncommon for this era so it is hard to tell if this was a home made garment or a shop bought one. It is small, probably equivalent to a modern size 6.

Monday, 17 February 2014

...and one more donation

The final donation in a week of donations was this rather lovely little (it is very small) Tudor style dress. It was given by a lovely lady from Cambridge and it belonged to her late mother.

Her mother acted here at the Maddermarket in the mid 1940s but we worked out that the dress was probably made for her around 1938/9.  The dress was for the character of Mary Queen of Scots but we're not sure if it was for a MMT production. I will be hitting the archives soon.

It's always great receiving donations but when they have provenance too, it's even better.  Not sure if we'll be able to use it for our June production of Anne Boleyn. As I said, it is very tiny and it only just fits my smallest dummy, but I will use it for the production display.

The black is cotton velvet and the white is rayon

The skirt is covered with silver sequins and the braid is beaded silver

French hood trimmed with artificial pearls

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Pretty Things

Hello lovelies,

Still fairly quiet in the wardrobe which is good. I'm getting a head start on our big Shakespearean offering in March. We are doing 'As You Like It' with a bit of a hippy/flower power vibe! Watch this space for some groovy gear........

In the meantime here are a few piccys from a donation I received this morning from a lady in Cambridge. They all belonged to her mother.

Lovely little silk blouse that could easily do 20s and 30s shows

Very pretty fine wool dress that may well find it's way into As You Like It

As may these sandals

Hand embroidered mittens and belt. Wish I'd had these for The Snow Queen

Beautiful lace and cotton camisole. 1920s I think

I have some more donations arriving tomorrow. Stay tuned costumeophiles........