My dream RSC commission thrilled me all over again last week, as fellow storyteller Maria Credalli and I headed into the RSC’s costume storage unit in Stratford Upon Avon to film the stories we created back in August.
The stories were inspired by material we found in the oral histories of the Costume Department. For the last few years, a team at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) has been interviewing costume designers, actors, costume collection specialists, buyers and makers of every description (wig makers, dyers, armourers, cutters etc) to gather stories about the Department. The interviews are fascinating (and confidential!) revealing both the tricks of the trade and the personal and artistic dramas behind various productions over the years. As a former drama student, I found them especially exciting, because they were talking about iconic shows I had studied, like Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I also loved having full access to the company’s vast photo archive (only selected items are available to the public) and spent hours comparing various costumes, especially those for Cleopatra. Helen Mirren, Glenda Jackson, Frances de la Tour, Janet Suzman…. all completely different.
Anyway, the RSC were so pleased with what Maria and I did, they decided to record our pieces for the RSC website. We were dancing round the kitchen at this news, especially when we learned there was the possibility that we could have Juliet Stevenson’s glorious Titania dress in the background on the day. Juliet had talked about it in one of the interviews we had been given and made it sound so amazing, both Maria and I had Googled it – and instantly fallen in love. Truly, it was the stuff of fairytales. Maria had spun one of her stories around its creation. So the thought of seeing it for real was thrilling beyond words. It was only a possibility. Our contact had requested it, but once a costume has become part of the official collection, it is guarded as closely as the Crown Jewels.
And yet… they brought it out for us. Oh, the excitement! We weren’t allowed to touch it (which I found funny, given that it had almost certainly been ripped/thrown onto the floor/had tea spilt on it on numerous occasions when it was in use) but still it was there. And it was indeed glorious. So beautiful.
The videos will up on the RSC website in January.