It's all the preparation...

1 September 2020

Under normal circumstances our beautiful home city of Cardiff would have been awash with colour for the annual Pride Cymru celebrations,  which is usually held over the August Bank Holiday weekend. We caught up with Stevie Haynes-Gould, Welsh National Opera's Touring Wardrobe Assistant and proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community, to explore the common ground between preparing a performer for a show and getting ready for one of the biggest and most colourful events of the year.

'What makes Pride fun is the feeling of being comfortable yet fierce in whatever you want to wear and how you wish to express yourself. One year I made myself a chocolate chip ice cream costume for a friend's seaside theme garden party. I hand sewed brown sequins onto a mint green T-shirt, wore tan coloured chinos and made a patterned wafer fascinator from foam and 3D fabric paint. A touch of glitter completed the outfit. Was I at all fashionable? Not really but I had fun!

On stage or off stage, personality and colour palette is everything. The last colour in the Pride Flag, purple, represents the Spirit and I like to think I have that in my work and everything I do whether it’s drawing or sewing. If I’m in a gathering I definitely like to get into the spirit of the party, especially if a costume is involved.'

Woman dressed in black with feathered collar sings with one hand in the air.

'Opera naturally has a tendency to have intense characters. One of my favourites is the Queen of the Night from Mozart's The Magic Flute. Her personality is powerful, vengeful and imposing and in WNO’s 2005 production the Queen is dressed to replicate the night sky in black velvet with petrol green/black feathers and crystal details over her bodice and gown.

I have appreciated costume design from a young age. My brother took my sister and I to see the original West End run of Disney's Beauty and the Beast at the Dominion Theatre in 1999. At the time I had never seen anything on that scale onstage. Its design was detailed, flamboyant and pure fantasy. However, it wasn't until I was studying A-Level Drama and Theatre Studies that I knew I wanted to work in theatre. I enrolled on the then Theatre Design course at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and the rest is history.

Everyone you see wearing a costume onstage is the result of months of preparation. Traditionally in theatre you are given 30 minutes, occasionally called 'the half', to get the performers stage ready. This time is a team effort between Dressers, Wardrobe, Wigs & Make-Up and performers.'

Emcee and Lady Rhondda sing on stage with full chorus, with their hats raised in the air in celebration. They are at the polling station.

'Every production is different in its preparation. For Frank Martin's Le Vin herbé the cast were dressed in modern black clothes and only needed five minutes to get ready where as with Rhondda Rips It Up!, the all female cast had to be laced into corsets. The only exception was Lesley Garrett who had to wear a bust flattener as she played the only male characters. It’s amazing how quickly you can work when you’re against the clock!

While I might be celebrating Pride Cymru a little differently this year [at home with my husband and dog], its preparation usually involves listening to some Scissor Sisters/ Muse or having Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on in the background while getting ready. Work preparation is much more serious of course but can still be fun and after a busy and long show it’s nice to relax with colleagues afterwards, but only after the Wardrobe team, the local Dressers and I have collected the shows dirty laundry and if needed, washed any fake blood off costumes (for example when touring Madam Butterfly!).'