Panto | Behind the Scenes at Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal

It’s time to gather your friends and family and practice your best boos and ‘she’s behind you!’s because the panto is coming to town! This year we’re being treated to Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal, starring Gillian Wright, Derek Griffiths and Richard Gauntlett, to name but a few. As with all panto – expect the unexpected! The Theatre Royal have a whole host of surprises in store for you. If there’s one thing I love about Theatre, it’s the costumes.  I was lucky enough to head behind the scenes to meet Kirsteen Wythe the costume designer for Sleeping Beauty.

Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal

With over one hundred costumes to design and make, it’s safe to say that Kirsteen and her team have a lot to keep them occupied. They’ve been working in house since October and the end is almost in sight! Cast fittings start in the next couple of week with the first performance opening on 13th December. It’s all hands on deck at the moment!

The design process

Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal

The costumes for Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal are born out of a meeting with Richard Gauntlett the director and Kirsteen. They discuss his vision, the plot and any other key points, such as the surprises. Kirsteen then goes away and creates various lists before embarking upon designing the costumes. With over 100 costumes to make from various different eras the lists come in really handy! 

The challenges

Designing costumes for panto comes with a whole host of challenges! The first is that the costumes need to be seen, even right at the back, meaning small details often go unnoticed. Hence that most of the costumes are loud and somewhat brash! To further add complication all of the outfits needs to work together and complement each other when they on stage. They need to be easy to take on and off too, with some characters having to change in under a minute.

Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal

That’s not all! Some of the costumes need to fit more than one person. Young actors and actresses will be treading the board again this year. There are three groups of them playing the same character on rotations. So the one costume needs to fit all of them.

Then there’s the material to consider. Panto can be a rather messy affair. Thankfully this year Kirsteen only has water to contend with. In previous years she’s had to design a costume that could be covered in porridge, wash, dried and turned around for another performance! 

Oh, did I mention that there’s flying involved in all pantomimes too? That means a selection of the costumes need to be built around various safety harnesses.

Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal

The performance

Rehearsals are a mere few days before the curtain rises for the first time. This can be a manic period for the costume department. If something doesn’t fit right or the costume doesn’t work on stage, the team can have a matter of hours to turn around a new one!

You’d be forgiven for thinking that as the curtain rises Kirsteen’s job gets a little easier! In fact, the team are on hand at each performance, watching from their workshop. There are often repairs, clean ups and other jobs to do as the performance is ongoing. 

Phew!

After five weeks of panto, it’s onto the next project for Kirsteen! This year will be her fourth year making panto costumes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. If you were wondering what her favourite costumes are from Sleeping Beauty –  that would be an impossible choice! Kirsteen rates Peter Pan as one of her favourite productions to create costumes for though!

When is it on? How can I get tickets?

Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal

Sleeping Beauty at Norwich Theatre Royal runs from Wednesday 13th December 2017 – Sunday 14th January 2018. Ticket cost between £7 and £24.50. They can be bought  online or by calling 01603 630000. 


With thanks to Richard Jarmy Photography for the official cast photos.

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