Leaving this department behind, I’m whisked along a warren of corridors to meet Carol Lingwood, head of costume, whose team includes ladies’ and men’s tailors, alteration hands, dyers, costume prop-makers and buyers. At the beginning of each show, Lingwood and a costume supervisor meet with the designer to establish a costume breakdown – essentially how many costumes each character might need and whether they will be made in-house or bought (with contemporary productions, it’s more likely to be the latter).
On Follies, for example, virtually everything was made, but because of the number of costumes needed (around 150, plus 62 headdresses and hats), some were outsourced. ‘Making costumes is such a jigsaw puzzle: a tailor might be waiting for 20 feathers that need to be dyed in the dye shop and attached to a frame, which has to be made in the prop room. We have fantastic makers who we can send garments out to, but what we try and keep in-house are those costumes with many different elements,’ she says.
During the rehearsal period, the show’s designer is on hand to answer questions such as exactly where the 600,000 Swarovski crystals – which all have to be glued on by hand – for Follies need to be placed.
Right now, everyone in the main workroom is putting the finishing touches to costumes for Saint George and the Dragon, so we head straight to the dye shop. ‘For War Horse everything had to be covered in mud, but anything that requires a finish, whether that’s vomit, blood or something really subtle like sweat marks to make things look worn, happens here,’ says Lingwood.