Meet our Costume Team | LoveCostume2019

Today we’re celebrating our brilliant costume department team on Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 as they feverishly prepare for the opening of our next production Tree which runs from 29 July.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (1)

(L to R) Keshini Ranasinghe, Naomi SL Thompson, Sydney Florence, Rebecca Barnett, Catherine Kodicek and Kinnetia Isidore.

We sat down with Catherine Kodicek (Head of Costume), Kinnetia Isidore (Deputy Head of Costume), and Rebecca Barnett (Waredrobe Manager) to find out more about what it’s like to work as costume professional at the Young Vic.

What is it like to work in a costume department?

K: Every day is different, it’s a bit like going on a mad adventure with a team of people with different skills all working towards a shared goal.

C: It is very satisfying to work in costume. The hours can be long and you lose a lot of your evenings but the sense of camaraderie and teamwork is so rewarding. Also, the work is exciting, choosing the right costume, finding the right fabric, searching for the right vintage piece, nailing a quick change, restoring a costume to perfection night after night, there are so many different aspects to the costume world it is an unconventional ‘day to day’.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (5).jpg

I can get really excited about finding the perfect button or the exact garment because I know that these elements will enhance the whole production. And whether the piece is going to challenge the audience’s opinions and assumptions or make them laugh or give them a much-needed escape, the costumes are an integral part of it and you have contributed to it and made that connection to another person.

R: I absolutely love working in costume. It means the world to me to be able to do my passion for a living! For me working in costume allows me to become a huge part of the magic of a show. The job can sometimes be intense and thankless but when you open a show and get to see all your hard work and effort come to life it’s something truly magical and it still gives me goosebumps and such an adrenaline rush!

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (2)

How did you get into costume?

K: It began as an excuse to fuel my vintage clothing shopping addiction and I ended up doing a degree in costume design.

C: I worked in a bank for six years before realising that my Amateur Dramatics costume work was more exciting and gave me more joy. I completed a costume production degree at Rose Bruford College as a mature student, working throughout my holidays and evenings so that when I graduated I had a pretty good CV. I was then very lucky to get a full-time job in the Basingstoke Haymarket when it was a producing house and never looked back.

R: I studied technical theatre at university and did a placement module in which I was a wardrobe assistant on Evita, Slovenia. I was very fortunate that my design tutor was also a working designer and asked me to do the show with him in the summer. From there I made contacts and started doing more and more shows and had a tour as Wardrobe deputy lined up for when I finished.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (6)

Rebecca (Wardrobe Manager)

What is the difference between working in costume for theatre and working in Film or TV?

K: Working in costume in theatre is like being in a family, there is nothing like the atmosphere backstage before a show. I think you can get away with being a bit more creative when you don’t have the pressures of viewing costumes under the eye of an HD camera. I feel you are able to build strong bonds and relationships with backstage teams and casts throughout the run of a show, there is something about the excitement of live performance that brings everybody together.

C: Theatre and live events like Opera and Dance are immediate. You can spend a lot of time working on the creation of the show and in technical rehearsal, although the best part is getting to see the show performed in front of an audience. The sense of shared common purpose with a fixed deadline is also galvanizing. Everyone is working towards the same deadline. In film or tv, you may be waiting two years in post-production to see the fruits of your labor.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (3).jpg

Once the show opens, it is your job to replicate the show for each audience so that it feels fresh and new every time. No two performances are the same. Unlike film where it is set, theatre audiences reactions form part of the show, there is nothing like standing backstage and hearing an audience react to a line being spoken live onstage.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (7).jpg

R: Part of the joy of my job is the live aspect of it. The rush of a quick change and the crazy moments when you have to quickly fix a garment in the seconds when actors come off stage! I have loved theatre from a very young age and think it is truly a privilege and joy to be a part of!

Tree runs at the Young Vic from 29th July until 24th August. Book now.

Photos by Anthony Lee

Love Theatre Day 2018 | Costume Instagram Takeover

For #LoveTheatre Day we handed over the reigns of our Instagram account to our fabulous Costume department so that we could peek into their mad world of costume changes, wigs, mid-show fixes and other behind the scenes action on our production of Twelfth Night.

Check out some of their antics below –

Two weeks exploring technical theatre with YV Taking Part’s Backstage Pass

This month we’ve been delighted to have 9 young Londoners at the Young Vic learning the skills and secrets of stagecraft, as part of Taking Part’s Backstage Pass programme. Find out what they got up to below. 

Backstage Pass is a free course at the Young Vic where for two weeks we invite young Londoners to take part in exploring all aspects of technical theatre. The group spends time with the YV’s immense production team having workshops in Stage Management, Lighting, Stage, Sound, Costume and Construction. These workshops culminate in a performance of an extract of a play, professionally directed and acted, which the participants have plotted, built, designed and called.  To get a full production experience, they also stay for the ‘get-out’ immediately afterwards.

As well as their time at the Young Vic, the group went on tours and trips to other London theatres – having tours and/or seeing shows in the West End, Southwark Playhouse, National Theatre, Gate, Almeida and the Roundhouse. Our thanks to the staff at these theatres for being so generous with their time!

Daniel Harrison, who coordinated the project, said “It was really great to see the group work together, as the intricacies of their chosen area of technical theatre were interwoven to create the final piece. Lighting chatted with sound over the various cues, stage management with costume over the props used. Technical theatre does not work in silo, and the group soon learnt this, as well as discovering interests and skills that they had previously not known about. Ahmed said being Stage Manager made him ‘feel like an authority figure’ and Abdul on sound told me that he’d picked up tips to use on his own grime tracks!”

Leo Wringer and Nadia Albina in Backstage Pass’ excerpt of by Alistair McDowall, directed by Finn den Hertog. Photo by Beanie Ridler

The Backstage Pass programme gives young Londoners an understanding of and foot-in to the professional theatre scene, not just at the Young Vic, but at venues across the capital. Not only is the course free (as are all the theatre tickets), but a travel and lunch bursary are provided to ensure that those on the course have no barrier in participating.

“The laundry bill must be incredible” – How DO our wardrobe team cope with #YVDream Mud?

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 Wardrobe staff doing the laundryblood 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.