The Young Vic costume department have been both complimented and commiserated with, by critics and audience members alike as to how they have to deal with our A Midsummer Night Dream mud every night. Especially those white pants…. come on! We talked to Head of Costume Catherine Kodicek about how this is done.
“Over the years we have been challenged by lots of productions when it comes to the laundry and maintenance of the costumes; oodles of blood from all kinds of injuries, bags of vomit made from soup and other food items, bottles of ink, water with brown dye in it which the actors fall in to, sticky champagne that gets sprayed over them, paint which they cover themselves in, make-up and even a food fight with trifle, but nothing has really compared to the mud in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Not since the *blood rain* in A View From The Bridge has every single item of costume come up completely covered and needing to be transformed back to its clean self.
The key to survival is to have doubles of as many of the costumes as possible so that they do not get washed every single day. Washing and drying can wear out even very robust fabrics. There will always be items from vintage shops and markets that you cannot buy a second version of so if possible make replicas of these. The more duplicates you have the fewer times each item will be washed and the longer they will look good. Some of the actors in the show have between 2 and 6 versions of their costumes.
- Before we let any actual costumes get muddy we did a wash test with some old clothes to see how washable the mud was- the answer was *not very washable on natural fibres*. On man made fabric such as polyester and nylon the mud comes out relatively easy. On natural fibres such as cotton and linen the fabric wants to hold the mud particles and so the mud is harder to get out.
- Using the same method we used successfully on the blood rain did not help us. Every
heavily soiled item needed rinsing or soaking, scrubbing then washing, rinsing and washing again before it was clean. In the end the magic ingredient to dislodge the mud particles was washing up liquid!! (an old trick recommended by Upstage Theatrical Dry Cleaners who we use regularly for dry cleaning).
- Every item still needed to be scrubbed and then washed, but the washing up liquid proved to be more successful that any of the oxy action or other *stain removal* products. We discovered that the cheaper the detergent the better, as it produces fewer bubbles and makes rinsing easier.
- We found that drying the suit trousers first and brushing off the surface mud prior to surface washing gave the best results. Finally we also ran the whites through an ecological bleach to freshen them regularly and let the lighting do the rest.”
So there you have it. How to clean a entire company’s costumes every night post mud-roll.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs in the YV Main House until 1 April. For more information and to book, click here.