York Theatre Royal’s head of costume Hazel Fall says she walked past Clifford’s Tower and “realised it was the perfect shape for the human body”.
She enlisted the help of deputy wardrobe supervisor Janet Hull to turn her vision into an outfit for this year’s Dame (played by Robin Simpson) in Jack and the Beanstalk.
The costume uses the grass verges around Clifford’s Tower on the bottom half, with the building on top – as is the case in real life.
It also pays homage to York’s history with hot air balloons with one appearing on top of the Dame’s head.
“When you’re designing it’s always good to start with a shape and colour, of course, is important. I looked at lots of photographs of Clifford’s Tower from all possible angles,” Hazel says.
“Finding the right sort of fabric for the grass part of the dress was difficult to find as it had to look like the texture of the grass.”
Hazel also designed an afternoon tea dress for the Dame, a costume that makes the character look like she’s wearing a table laid up for a tea party, complete with cups, saucers, teapot and cake stand (worn as a hat).
“The tea dress really came about with Bettys in mind and that York is full of afternoon tea spaces and cafes. We went for pink and sparkly for the colour,” Hazel explains.
Janet made both two dresses while Hazel made the headdresses. The costumes took four to five weeks to make.
The theatre’s chief electrician and lighting programmer Craig Kilmartin helped with the final touches by adding lights to the dress.
Clifford’s Tower was the keep of York Castle and was first built by William the Conqueror over 950 years ago to dominate the greatest city in the north. In recent years English Heritage has undertaken a major project at the site to protect its historic fabric and to enhance visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of it.
The Dame and the Clifford’s Tower dress can be seen in Jack and the Beanstalk at York Theatre Royal, until January 7.
The cast includes ex-EastEnders star Nina Wadia and James Mackenzie of CBBC.
Perhaps the most unique member of the cast is a border collie named Zeus. The six year-old dog from York is a three times Young Kennel Club Crufts winner, and has won a role in the new pantomime.
Zeus isn’t the only animal on stage, with ‘Dave’ the cow coming to life in a first for Jack and the Beanstalk.
For more information and tickets visit: https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/