Spotlight On: Jocelyn Corderoy (Wardrobe Mistress)

Spotlight On: Jocelyn Corderoy (Wardrobe Mistress)

18 November 2015

by Rebecca Parkinson

Jocelyn works backstage on Brave New World as Wardrobe Mistress. As part of LoveTheatreDay, we sent Young Reporter Rebecca Parkinson backstage to interview Jocelyn at the Darlington Civic Theatre, to find out more about what's involved in her job.

Costume rail of Brave New WorldWhat's involved in the work you do?
I’m wardrobe mistress on Brave New World. I look after the costumes on tour, so if things break, fall apart or need mending, it’s my job to fix them. I keep the costumes basically looking as they were in the beginning hopefully, depending on how lengthy the tour is, but also washing, doing the ironing, getting costumes ready for each show and teaching the dressers. If we have dressers on each show – this one we have two – I have to teach them the dressing plots, and I have to keep an eye on them and check they're all right.


What makes the Brave New World costumes different to any others?
They're quite uniform I suppose, because it's meant to be in the future, so they're quite regimented, so we've got a lot of grey and a lot of basic colours; so you've got greys, you've got green, browns, which are the different levels. The Gammas and the Alphas are all in purple, the Gammas are in green, and you've got grey and beiges. So you've got set colours rather than a variety of colour. Each colour is sort of associated with a certain person as it were.


How long do you spend looking after the costumes?
It varies. On this show, I'm in on a Monday for four hours so I do all the washing then. Most of this stuff is washable, a lot of the suits and that have to be dry cleaned, but I don't get those done every week because it's such a short show and they're wearing everything so quickly that actually things don't get too dirty. So I do a four-hour wash call on a Monday and then on a Tuesday morning I do all the ironing and any repairs, and then on Tuesday afternoon is teaching the local dressers, so then we go into show mode.


Of the costumes in this show, which one do you think is your favourite?
Now that's difficult. They're all quite, sort of normal. I like Margaret Mond’s suits, she wears some classic sort of Chiffon suits, grey but they're very classy, you know, got a good line to them. I think her's are the most attractive because everything else is quite similar scrubs and suits.

Sophie Ward as Margaret Mond

How beneficial is it that the costumes visually portray who the characters are?
I think it is quite important because I think it's quite a difficult play. If you've read the book I think you know what's going on. If you haven't read the book, I think you could be a little bit lost in the story, if you can grasp, the colours are certain characters. So the Gammas are the workers, if anybody is in green, they'd be pouring the tea or getting the drinks. If they're in purple, they're the top Alphas. It's quite good the colours relate because I think it helps you picture it. If you're getting a bit lost in the story, you can associate the look with the person. 


Do you have to handle the costumes differently depending on how the look?
Yeah, we do actually. All the Savage costumes for one go into a box to travel so they don't get hung up, because they're very worn and torn. It's actually quite good to keep them like that because otherwise, you would have to scrumple them up when you get them out. All the washing goes into baskets because it is going to be washed and ironed when we arrive at the next venue. Suits, jackets and lab coats are all hung up so they're not too creased when they come out at the next touring theatre.


What is the most fragile costume piece?
I don't know actually, they are all pretty sturdy. They're not too bad with this, with some shows you do they have period costumes, obviously, they're pretty flimsy and they've been worn a bit because they are on hire. With this, they've all been bought off the peg so a lot of them are sturdy. I suppose shirts, getting them clean, some of the collars you have to scrub a bit because of make-up. We've got wigs but they're not bad to handle because they're all synthetic. 

Wigs used in Brave New World

How long have you been wardrobe mistress for and have you done it for any other shows?
I've been wardrobe mistress for about 20 years, so I tour all the time. So yes I have done a lot of musicals, King and I, and I have just finished Oaklahoma on tour. I've done Ballet. I worked for Matthew Bourne Swan Lake using men as swans. I did that for about 12 years, so it took me around the world. I work with Bath Theatre Royal and I've done a lot of plays there and on tour. It's quite fortunate working backstage because you can work on any sort of show. It's not like being an actor if he's not a musician he can't do musicals. Whereas I can do dance shows, I can do plays, I can do ballet shows because I don't have to do them, I just have to look after the costumes.


What's the most interesting part of your job?
I quite like running the show. Some wardrobe people don't particularly do much during the show, they do wardrobe stuff upstairs and that. I like being backstage because it's quite fun seeing people come off because they're very different when they're on stage than when they exit. They become suddenly relaxed and they're back to who they are rather than their characters. It's quite funny watching and just being part of that. You feel like you are part of the show if you're working the show.


Is there anything else you would like to add?
You don't have to be a maker for this job. I wasn't trained as a maker, I was trained as a nanny which is completely out of the way. You do have to be organised and you have to enjoy what you do with theatre. It's long hours and you're away from home a lot of the time, especially if you're touring, so you have to enjoy being in theatre. You don't have to be a wardrobe person. You don't have to be a maker necessarily. You have to be organised and you have to be able to wash and sew a bit to repair, but some people think you have to make costumes to be a wardrobe mistress and that's not part of the job. Makers are different people who have their own workshops and things, so if you're interested in wardrobe then you can do it without actually having to, being able to make costumes.

Backstage in the wardrobe area

Brave New World premieres at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, where it runs from 4 to 26 September 2015. It then tours to Edinburgh, Blackpool, Nottingham, Cheltenham, Wolverhampton, Darlington and Bradford where it concludes on 5 December.