As a Pantomime Dame with own wardrobe, we are used to packing, unpacking, repacking and loading the costumes in and out of trucks. It is what we do before and after a Panto run. We don’t however usually pack everything we own into a very big van and whisper “so long dearie” after thirty six years!
After what seems a lifetime of storing our Pantomime costumes, wigs and accessories at the Kenneth More Theatre, this summer we moved it all, in its entirely to a new home in rural Hertfordshire. A County away from Ilford in Essex.
Andrew Ryan and I are used to sending a rail of costumes, two skips and a few wearable objects (a Can Of Beans, A Christmas Pudding.. A Deckchair- the list goes on!) to theatres around the UK for panto. We have never dispatched the entire contents of our Kenneth More Theatre Store in one session! Every costume was already bagged in its costume bag, and the wigs wrapped in plastic, but they were hanging on chrome industrial strength shop fittings.
During the months of June and July we bought eight dress rails, which just took the costumes on our fixed rails, and six large cardboard “skips”. The Skips took wigs and accessories. Two more Wicker skips took the things you might use one day- Panto specific to Aladdin or Jack or Snow White, and another things you’ll probably NEVER use, but I am that hoarder! It takes me ten years to throw away Christmas Cards from dressings rooms- some dressing rooms now demolished!
We bought more dress covers for the costumes and eight Dress rail covers (for the rails not surprisingly) and set to work packing up our “stock In Trade”. To add to the complications, we needed a rail or two each with THIS season’s costumes on them, which gets added to, or depleted once the Panto script arrives! I know this year as Queen of North Wales, I will be wearing the “Glitzy” stuff- no “Workers” required. No pinny for Queen Myfanwy of Deganwy! I’ve set up two rails of furs, beaded wonderments, sequinned creations and ermined robes- and await the script to hopefully get as many costume changes in as I possibly can. My motto.. “Keep moving and they can’t hit you”.
Winching down the skips to join the rails below
I started storing my “Sister” costumes here back in 1981. Over the years Peter Robbins and I built up a huge wardrobe, and then continued to get new made each year. Fortunately we didn’t hoard in those days, and recycled. Our old costumes are knocking about somewhere even now I hope! Andrew Ryan’s costumes and wigs joined, and the “corner” filled up to bursting point.
I say we didn’t “hoard”- some things you NEVER throw away. This gorgeous Hound was made by a pal of Peter & mine- Sue Dacre. A superb master craftesman and Film and Theatre puppeteer. Sue made this chap and a Vulture (called “Vera”) for our very first time as “Ugly Sisters” here in 1981.Vera sat on my head in the hunting scene. Vera was glued with a glue we later found had “Gorn Orff”. To be brutal- She stank! She was banished to the scene docks of four theatres before she finally went to Vulture Heaven. (Bournemouth I recall) and that is why there is no picture!
The above picture shows three skips that didn’t go on the van. Sadly the wicker skips had fallen apart, and the monogrammed one (ER- not the Queen.. Think about it? “Ellacott & Robbins”- got it?) I had to put in the recycling. After 38 years it had perished. It was a sad moment.
The rails now at the ground floor dock doors.
The “corner” nearly empty
The last things to move were the “Pantomime Roadshow” costumes and scenery. I’ve been fortunate. In forty Years I’ve never had to have costumes and props in the house. I am still fortunate, as only the Panto Roadshow scenery and costumes are now at home. They await our Roadshows to Basingstoke and Llandudno this Autumn, and then they too will travel to leafy Hertfordshire.
Finally like the Marie Lloyd song we “Followed on with the Old Cock Linnet”, but we didn’t Dilly or Dally-we followed the loaded van, prayed the mountain of costumes and wigs and props would fit into their new home and “Open Sesame!” The new cave of wonders had room to spare! Here is a picture of one proud Pantomime Dame and the Costumes safely stored again!
This reminds me of covered wagons on the trail! Here are the eight covered rails, and behind them stacked up are the eight skips. Danny La Rue’s bustle (as made by Terry Parsons ) has a new home, and Danny would love his new surroundings. Very “Dan”!
Elvis hasn’t left the room, but Ryan and Ellacott most certainly have!