I’ve remembered some more funny stories from when I used be the designer for a London pantomime.
As I said last week, I always tried to go the classy route with my designs. However, as rehearsals progressed, the director would lose confidence in this approach and start asking for more and more glitter. So armed with a pot of gold glitter paint, Muggins here would go on the set and start adding touches of sparkle here there and everywhere.
The crew were astonished that I was so ‘hands on’, which in retrospect was a mistake on my behalf, because inevitably this would coincide with the lighting rehearsal. I’d be balanced precariously on a step ladder touching up Widow Twanky’s dado when the whole place would be plunged into darkness. There would then be a whirring and crunching as the stage revolved and I’d find myself in the Caliph’s palace with every light in the house trained on me and my paintbrush.
Meanwhile, the spinning scenery would have deposited my paint pot in the market place in old Peking, usually upside down, with the contents being trodden around in places that even my bad taste director didn’t want to sparkle. I still have a pair of Hush Puppies the soles of which are covered in glitter paint!
We had a code in the wardrobe department for when things got too stressful. Red cotton meant red wine was on the go. White cotton meant white wine was in the offing. Of course we weren’t allowed to drink on the premises, so this had to be our little secret. One day one of the wardrobe staff approached me in mid-rehearsal, right in front of the director. Ralph, we need more red cotton. This I thought rather blatant, but as soon as I could get away I nipped across to the off licence and stocked up.
I waited in the wardrobe for ages, bottle opener and glasses at the ready, looking forward to a nice bit of illicit refreshment. Eventually the wardrobe supervisor burst in, mouthful of pins, and hissed no, Ralph, red cotton. We need more red cotton. There had been a serious costume malfunction in the chorus backstage and they really had run out of red cotton!