Cardigans, camel coats and door knobs

With rehearsals in full swing for The Heretic we hear from Judith Croft about her costume designs for the cast and what is involved in being a theatre designer.

It’s now the third week of rehearsals of The Heretic and I am seeing my design taking shape in the various departments and workshops around Manchester and beyond. I’m spending a lot of time in my car; the workshop where the set is being built and painted is in North Wales, the costumes are being prepared in Whalley Range. The filmed sections are being done in MediaCity, and Cheshire Oaks Outlet Village has provided some bargains. Shopping for costumes is the part of the job people envy most; wandering around the shops all day spending someone else’s money. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? We had a long day last week in central Manchester and came back heavily laden and completely exhausted.

We have now had all the company in for a first fitting and our production costume rail is filling up nicely. Fiona is Wardrobe Supervisor and Debbie is doing the making on this show. We always try to use as much as possible from our costume store, but for modern day there is always a lot of shopping too. Cate Hamer, who plays Diane, has five costume changes in the first act, all of them very quick. As a university lecturer, she needs to look smart and confident, with a bit of colour to reflect her independent personality. There are plenty of black and grey jackets in the shops, but finding something a bit different has proved to be a challenge. Diane would probably shop at Reiss or L.K.Bennet – but we don’t have that kind of budget.

Phoebe, played by Sophie Robinson, presents a different challenge altogether. Her character is suffering from anorexia so we are hiding her figure away in baggy tops and cardigans. Ben, played by Ciaran Kellgren is an extreme green student who buys most of his clothes from charity shops. Our stock has come in handy here and we have been able to kit him out with little extra spending, except for some trainers and t-shirts.
Teenagers and young people are always quite difficult to dress as there are so many sub-cultures between them. So much depends on what music they listen to and certain brands of clothing or shoes would be completely wrong for certain groups. Ben is into his music and saving the planet so we are dressing him in an old hoody, hippy shorts, Vans and a bandana.

Kevin, played by Stuart Fox, is the head of his university department. He has to be quite smart but I have avoided a business style for him as he is an academic and I want his clothes to give a hint of his own hippy past. He wears a rather elegant camel coat but with cardigans, a jumper or sports jacket and coloured shirts. No ties, except in the last scene.

Miss Tickell, played by Polly Lister, is a Human Resources Officer and we have really enjoyed dressing her. She is a rather officious character and described in the play as wearing a lot of leather. I have created a look for her which involves just a hint of dominatrix.

Geoff, played by Andrew is Head of Security and described in the script as wearing a cheap black suit. Music to the ears of our finance department. We are dressing him in boots and a high visibility jacket too.

Over the next few days, I will be doing more costume shopping, visiting the set builders to look over progress and paint finishes, shopping for kitchen equipment to dress Diane’s kitchen, watching the filming at MediaCity, doing second costume fittings and being around for make-up sessions.

Two things now on the top of my to-do list – selecting door knobs for Diane’s country kitchen and finding a notice board for the office. I’d better get off now to a DIY store.

The Heretic runs from Thu 27 Sep – Sat 13 Oct. Book your tickets here.