In a top secret location, somewhere in Norwich, there is a place where years of pantomime props and costumes wait patiently for another moment in the spotlight... I was lucky enough to go behind the scenes of Norwich Theatre Royal's Costume Store, and given a tour by Costume Hire Supervisor - the wonderful Catherine Majtenyi.
There is nothing else like this place. Imagine a garage, but in the place of bikes, tools, and generations of microwaves you'll find instead tiaras, chicken costumes and a drawer full of comedy sausages (seriously).
So what is the costume store?
Once the pantomime is over and the frolics wait for next year, all the specially made costumes go to the Costume Store for refurbishment, storage, and perhaps for loan. Other theatres and productions are able to hire costumes from the store, so this way not a single sequin goes to waste, and costumes from Norwich Theatre Royal are sent all over the country. While I was there Cati was preparing a loan that would see a sumptuous array of regal costumes travel all the way to a theatre on Scotland. One costume in that collection - an enormous, tudor-style dress - had taken Cati over a day to refurbish, and was certainly heavier than any dress I'd ever encountered before. I don't know exactly how heavy they were together but to give you an idea, if that was your shopping you wouldn't be walking home with it.
What's in there?
Quite simply anything you can imagine. There's a 'Dames' rail, a section of tiny wolf outfits, and boxes full of different animal heads to wear. Everything is meticulously organised, in boxes with labels like 'sparklies', 'tiger boots' and 'petticoats and mouse bodies'. It's a weird and wonderful place - a sort of industrial version of childhood - where glitter and coloured feathers are arranged on high scaffolds and are neatly packed in plastic crates.
A Chinese Dragon costume - an actor would stand inside the head while others would operate its fabric body
What's it like inside?
Enormous, sparkly and very very cold. When I met Cati she was - understandably - swaddled in a fur coat, scarf and hat. The store is massive and cavernous, although all over the place is piled high with props and costumes - right to the ceiling. Cati has to use a ladder on wheels in order to get some of the costumes off the rails,and even then it's a bit of a reach!
Comedy sausages as promised, along with carrots, and pork chops
See it for yourself!
All the work in this store is an art piece in its own right. Each costume, prop, headpiece and tiara has been carefully designed and made beautifully, and even up close you can see how carefully each item has been thought through. Plus, I got a special sneak preview of what's to come in this year's performance of Sleeping Beauty, and you're in for a surprise...
So if you fancy seeing the spectacular work of Norwich Theatre Royal's costume and prop department for yourself, I highly recommend you book your tickets now before they sell out! The Panto is on from From Wednesday 13th December 2017 to Sunday 14th January 2018, and tickets are £7- £24.50 - for more details please visit our website.
Book tickets here, or enter our exclusive competition to win a family ticket and overnight stay at the Maid's Head Hotel!
Special thanks to Judy Foster, Alex Dalgliesh and Catherine Majtenyi for this post.
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