Back in 2010 I was but a wee slip of a girl, living in London age 20 and in a bit of an unsettled period of life with no money, an unhealthy relationship and no real clear path for solving either of those things. However! Not all was terrible, for in the summer of that year I got myself a position in wardrobe with the National Youth Theatre and had a blast making costumes for several shows that season.
When starting this blog, my partner suggested some #throwback entries – and where better to start than a complete decade ago?! I managed to find the announcement of the season archived online, which gives full details of the shows for that year.
From a personal perspective, though, summer at NYT was absolutely brilliant. I got to work with a group of people all like me, who loved sewing and creating and wanted to be in theatre in some way. As part of the program I had the privilege of going to the main warehouse for Angels Costume Hire and witnessing the sheer enormity of the scale of their operation, benefitting from talking to the staff there about the work they do and their own experiences of costuming – from celebrity fittings to last minute phone calls requiring period authentic outfits in vast quantities. We went backstage at the National Theatre, again having the unique chance to talk to the wardrobe team and being able to see the maze of production spaces supporting the onstage performances. We consolidated our drafting skills, fabric use, design skills, and ate a lot of pastries from the cafe up the street from HQ. As one of the oldest wardrobe members that year (if I remember correctly the technical side of NYT was for ages 16-21, and I was 20) I also went on a lot of scouting and shopping trips across London, fetching fabric from suppliers and looking for the missing pieces we needed to bring back to finish the various projects.
For one day, I covered control of the wardrobe for Living The Dream, an open air theatre piece performed in tandem both in London and Shanghai and adapting Shakespeare’s work using technology to link the two continents and casts. Potters Fields Park is right under Tower Bridge in central London and it was incredible to be part of putting on such a show in that setting. The archived description here gives more description but TL;DR it was awesome. And in the decade since, I’ve seen one of the cast members I dressed appearing now on real TV!
The highlight for me, though, was being part of SWARM, a huge 600-cast member strong piece performed in flash-mobs across the city and culminating in a performance at Battersea Power Station (or maybe it started there, then dispersed across the city). Unfortunately in 2010 I wasn’t really one for taking photos, and a lot of the time I was too busy working to really step back and capture the moment in a picture! Here, though, is a stock photo album of our actual show – I made the black corset and textured skirt worn by our Queen Bee as seen here – and I’d forgotten quite how powerful a visual thing it really was to see so many young people performing like that. Catherine Tate was at the show. So were quite a few other big names, but that’s who I remember mostly clearly smiling at those of us hiding in the ‘backstage’ area (a marquee, if I recall correctly).
I also vividly remember the day I was working on the white coutil corset under this Queen Bee costume and got a sudden severe nosebleed, only narrowly managing to miss bleeding all over the supremely expensive fabric.
It’s funny the way these memories come and go. I know somewhere in a box are the press clippings and mementos from this short few months of my life. We got a little packet of seeds (bee-friendly, naturally) too, which I kept the label from. I don’t know where it is now, but it’s nice to look back and reminisce a bit.