Costumes, Props and Lockdown Safety

Watching a recent rehearsal – the first, and only, rehearsal where the entire cast were permitted to attend, instead of our habitual groups of six or fewer. It’s raining (as usual) but at least the cast are finding each other’s performances amusing! (photo: Sara Nice)

Costumes and Props

Normally, the making and organising of costumes and props are specific jobs which fall to our large Stage Crew, who work in teams. Due to restrictions, we’ve had to be our own Stage Crew. (Usual volunteers: we’ve missed you!)

The cast have provided everything for themselves (with the exception of a couple of set pieces). The need to remain outdoors means no changing facilities, so cast have arrived in costume. If you’re sharp-eyed, you may have spotted an ivy wreath worn for shopping in the Co-op, or the odd tail dangling behind a forgetful cast member on their way home. but this is Wivenhoe after all…

All props are set or carried on and off by the cast, although entrances and exits are somewhat different in a film (that’s for another blog post).

If you remember our production of The Tempest, you may also recall broomsticks used to form the boat in the storm. Look out for them in our film – we’ve recycled!

Covid Safety Rules

Of course we’ve had to remain distanced during rehearsals and in the gardens, and ‘lateral flow’ tests have been carried out regularly. Protocols suggested that every actor needed a chair (their ‘spot’ away from everyone else, somewhere to keep their things) but the reality of tiny, focused rehearsals has meant no sitting-around time, and the reality of constantly being outdoors has meant leaving doors open (sheds, conservatories) so personal things can be stowed away from rain! Some props have even been duplicated to avoid handling by different people. Hint: watch closely in the final film for a pearl bracelet..


Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lockdown


A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lockdown – how it happened!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2020 was to have been an all-singing, all-dancing LIVE performance over five evenings in June. It had a magnificent cast and crew, a beautiful garden setting, live music and we were poised on the brink, with a three-month rehearsal schedule in place, when the country went into the first lockdown.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Lockdown 2021 is a tentative and wary response to Covid constrictions, undertaken in full knowledge that any turnaround in the situation could prevent proceedings. Fifteen of the original cast have been willing, able and enthusiastic about committing themselves to an uncertain eight weeks of rehearsing (in a vacuum) with a Director who knows nothing about filming. Luckily, one of our youngest members, Sameera, does – and has kindly taken on that particular burden. So we’ve been working in two gardens and I’ve mastered Zoom (sort of), which has been really useful for line-learning.

My first task was to chisel more from the already-reduced script. Whilst the WOAS aim is always to tell the story clearly, I needed to slice enough to permit one director (either me or Clare) and five actors to work on a scene together in a garden. I also wanted to leave alone some of the more poetic and recognisable lines. The rule of six has allowed us to rehearse all of the scenes, but rarely at the same time or place or in the right order. (Prompter Christine has sometimes been spotted leaning out of an upstairs window at rehearsals in her garden.)

We’ve merged two Mechanicals into one, enacted socially-distanced love scenes and made the most of Covid-related jokes wherever and whenever possible. (You’ll have to watch to find out how!). The rehearsal schedule has been a personal logistical nightmare. The cast have been brave and generous enough to allow me to work things out as we’ve gone along. After all, what else would they have been able to do on a Wednesday evening or Sunday afternoon during lockdown?!

Outdoor rehearsals during April and May should have been pleasant enough – but this marvellous cast have endured snow, hail, rain and the coldest and wettest April and May in years. They are remarkable.