Unravel the Arts Podcast Episode #1: Royal Shakespeare Company

Two podcast hosts interview the Head of Automation at the RSC on a balcony in the theatre that overlooks the river

Join your hosts Sanjna and Jaanvi as they go behind the scenes at the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company).

Welcome to our new podcast – Unravel the Arts!

About Episode #1

Our very first episode takes place at the RSC, during the production of A Christmas Carol.

Your hosts chat to members of staff working backstage including Head of Automation, Ben Leefe, and Head of Running Wardrobe, Sandy Smith Wilson.

How to listen

Listen now below or visit Anchor or Spotify.

#1: Royal Shakespeare Company Unravel the Arts

Who is in this podcast?

In this episode you will hear the voices of your hosts, Sanjna and Jaanvi, Ben and Sandy from the RSC, Matt and Paige from the RSC’s Front of House team, plus members of the podcast team, Danny and Rebecca.

Behind the scenes photos

Photos from our podcast recording at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon.

A large red brick theatre building with blue sky in the background
The Head of Automation at the RSC in a podcast interview
Recording equipment for a podcast
A woman with blonde hair is interviewed in the foyer of a theatre for a podcast
A large auditorium of a theatre has red seats and balconies
A behind the scenes tour at the Royal Shakespeare Company sees four people stand by a lighting desk

Full episode transcript

[Music plays]

[Snippet begins]

[Ben Leefe] There’s a magic blackboard. 

[Hosts] Yes.

[BL] I don’t know if you remember where it’s a magic trick. 

[Jaanvi] Yes, that used to amaze me. I still can’t get my head around that.

[BL] No one knows how that happened, it’s just magic. 

[J] Magic! 

[Sandy Smith Wilson] What’s not to love about it? You know, one minute I could be working with Elizabethean costume and all the ruffs. And then the next minute I could be in working with Roman togas. 

[Snippet ends]

[Music plays]

[J] Hello everyone and welcome to the first episode of Unravel the Arts.

[Sanjna] Hi I’m Sanjna. 

[J] And I’m Jaanvi and we’re members of Shout out for the Arts. 

[S] Shout out for the Arts is a group of young people who lead a cultural education partnership in Warwickshire. Today we’ll be interviewing two people from the RSC. Ben Leefe Head of Automation and Sandy Smith Wilson Head of Running Wardrobe.

[J] So, stay tuned to hear about some of the amazing jobs that happen at the RSC. 

[Music plays]

[J] So, our morning started when we met Ben in the foyer of the RSC theatre. 

[Hosts] Hi. 

[Rebecca] Hi I’m Rebecca. 

[J] Hello I’m Jaanvi.

[Rebecca] Hi Jaanvi. 

[S] I’m Sanjna. 

[BL] I’m Ben. 

[Rebecca] We’ve seen you on Zoom at some point. 

[BL] Nice to meet you. Have you been here before? 

[J] Yeah and you. Actually no we haven’t. 

[S] I’ve been here once for a school trip, we watched The Magician’s Elephant last year.

[BL] Brilliant, that was a lovely elephant. Yeah, really friendly! 

[J] Yeah. We were wondering if you could tell us a bit about what you do at the RSC? 

[BL] I just have fun! All the time. Am I going to get grilled? 

[J] We do have a few questions but it’s going to be more like a chat.

[Sound effects]

[BL] Hi I’m Ben Leefe. I work at the Royal Shakespeare Company. I’m the Head of Automation in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

[J] So, we were wondering how long it typically takes for you to start setting up for a show or a set? 

[BL] Sometimes it’s difficult to know that because we don’t know what show we’re going to do and in what style and who is going to be the creative team on the show. But normally I’d expect at least 40 weeks before we open the show. We would, one, know the scale of the show, so we’d have big, little and massive shows. That means we would have to understand how much resource to put into that show.

If there’s a show like A Christmas Carol, where we have quite a large element – the bed that comes out of the stage. We need to be able to build that and test that off site beforehand. So that means we would need to resource staff with plenty of time before the show comes into the theatre to build that and make that work off site. So for A Christmas Carol we would be looking for probably almost a year ahead. To understand if we’re doing a big show, this is a massive show. So, our Christmas shows are generally quite big so we need nearly a year in advance. We’re waiting now to find out what we’re doing next year, every meeting I go to with the senior leadership team I say – what are we doing next year? 

One, it’s exciting, and two, we need to start working out how to resource and how to fund it as well, because some things are really expensive. We try as much as possible to reuse. Our automation system has lots and lots of winches and motors that we use on every show, so we are reusing and reusing and reusing things. We try not to build new stuff unless we absolutely have to. 

[J] Along the timescale of actually putting the entire show together would you say that first the actor learns their lines, then you stage it and then you do your automation?

[BL] No. No. No.  

[J] What comes first?

[BL] What will happen, as an organisation we will have a model box, a white card event. It’s a very simple, small, scaled down version of the theatre with all the scenes set in that. 

[J] Oh wow.

[BL] So they’ll make little models and create little cardboard boxes of chairs and tables and the elements in the show that we want to see on stage. And that will happen months and months before the actors even start to get together in a rehearsal room. 

[J] Wow. 

[BL] So the actors and acting company usually will get together between ten and eight weeks before the show goes on stage. So they’ll be in a rehearsal room either in London, we use Clapham rehearsal rooms or in Stratford just up the road at The Other Place Theatre that we use. 

They’ll rehearse together for usually about eight weeks solidly and then they’ll come into the theatre when we’ve built the set and they’ll be introduced to the set and introduced to us. And we’ll tech the show in. We’ll do technical rehearsals for usually a week or two weeks, maybe eight days is pretty standard.

[S] What’s been your favourite show to work on so far?

[BL] My favourite show to work on so far was Matilda. So we did Matilda Roald Dahl’s story in The Other Place theatre when it was the Courtyard Theatre and then we went and built it in London in the Cambridge Theatre in the West End and that’s been running for 10 years now. That was just delightful. They have elements in Matilda, the swings they flew in and then they swing on the swings. I had to test those every single day, it was brilliant.

[J] Yeah. I remember going to see Matilda once in year six and we saw it in London and it was so cool. There were like these boxes that would come hanging down that had letters and numbers on them.

[BL] Yeah it’s excellent. And there’s a magic blackboard. 

[J] Yes.

[BL] I don’t know if you remember where it’s a magic trick. 

[J] Yes, that used to amaze me. I still can’t get my head around that.

[BL] No one knows how that happened, it’s just magic. 

[J] Magic! 

[S] How would you describe your job best in three words?

[BL] Cirkey, three words. 

[J] They’re getting tough now!

[BL] Safe theatre engineering. 

[J] Wow, that’s a pretty good choice. 

[BL] Yeah tough, I could talk for hours about it.

[J] So could you talk us through what a typical day at your job looks like?

[BL] Ok, for me, as I’m the head of the department, I usually get in a little bit early, I’ll check the systems, I’ll turn the desks on, I’ll check the brains – the server. It’s the big computer for the system is working and communicating with the different motors and the drives.

It starts to get quite complex cause you have three main areas to an automation system. You have the control centre which is the brains. Then you have the desk which you use to make things move and then you’ve got the winches, and they all have to communicate together. And the winches, each of those has a drive so it’s like three major elements. So I check those. Then I check emails, then I’ll have a coffee and then usually I just go for a little walk around the building, just to make sure everything looks as though it’s OK.

When I say building, I mean the area where we have our machines, so the machinery area. The area where most people never see. And then the team will come in and we’ll just have a little bit of chat, get together and make sure everyone is happy. We’ll sort of work out what people are doing for the day, so it might be that we move onto a project that’s an upcoming show or we may have a bit of maintenance to do. Or we might want to do some extra safety checks.

[S] How long have you been working on this job?

[BL] This job. I’ve been at this job for 14 years. I wasn’t the boss at the beginning but half way through, about six years ago I became the boss, because the old boss left. Yes, I love it. Hopefully it’s going to be the last job I ever do. 

[J] Aww.

[BL] I’ll just do it forever. 

[J] How did you get into it? What inspired you to?

[BL] Many years ago, as a Stratford lad, so I was born and raised in Stratford. I was very lucky. My mum was an English teacher so we used to come to the theatre, we used to come with school which is a great way to start. But I also used to sit on the gardens just outside the front doors, as a teenager. When the Americans used to leave they’d just give me their tickets and I would sit in their seats for the second half.

[J] Wow. 

[BL] It would be a cheeky young lad really. And then once you do that and you have a passion for something you just can’t stay away. 

[J] So what would you say to younger people like my age for example, looking to get into this?

[BL] For me, it’s being enthusiastic about theatre or dancing or any entertainment. Because ultimately it’s all the same. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare theatre. It could be drama club, it could be your local amateur dramatics and it could be joining a choir, you know anything. Everything’s linked. Just having a real interest. You know, even book groups, it’s all about communicating in different ways. With singing or dancing or acting or speech, communication. You can have a myriad of different ways of communicating. So, it’s almost anything really, having an interest and finding that interest that you really want to pursue.

[S] What was your dream job as a child?

[BL] My dream job as a child. I wanted to be a skier. 

[J] Really?

[BL] Yeah.

[J] Did you used to go skiing?

[BL] I used to go skiing. Yeah.

[J] Wow.

[BL] I was really lucky, I had an uncle who moved to Switzerland.

[J] Oh wow.

[BL] So I used to go on the train to Switzerland and I used to go skiing. 

[J] That’s so cool.

[BL] I was a really really lucky boy. 

[S] What would you tell your younger self now?

[BL] Just do it. Don’t be boring, just get up there and have some fun. I’d say don’t think about it, just do it. 

[Danny] A little bit of a tour, is that alright?

[BL] Yeah absolutely.

[D] Where can we go to? 

[J] This is exciting.

[BL] We’ll go to the auditorium and up to the control box.

[J] Wow. 

[D] Great OK.

[BL] This flooring we’re on now, this old wood used to be the stage floor of the old theatre before we had a rebuild of the theatre in the mid 2000s. 2006 to 2011. So, these floorboards now would have been on the stage that Judi Dench and Ian McKellen and all those great actors of the past would’ve walked on. 

[J] That’s really cool. 

[BL] Right, let’s carry on. This is the entrance to the seats in the theatre on the top level. We’re going to go in there. We’re going to go into the auditorium. This is what we call doing pre-show checks, so before the show, every show we’ll come in and we’ll do pre-show checks. 

So, they’ll move every element in the show so you can see the things flying up and down here. That’s the Christmas present flat, so that’s used in the scene of the show where it’s set up for the Ghost of Christmas Present. So it’s the middle ghost of the three. And you can see them hoovering up because we have snow in A Christmas Carol and that falls down from the snow machines in the roof. Which are small motors spin a drum round that has lots of little holes in and the snow just filters through the holes as it spins. So we get a nice little gentle trickle of snow falling on the stage.

What we’ve just seen is the iris closing so basically we have two sliders that open and close as sliders, so they travel horizontally. Then we’ve got a vertical gauze that flies in as well and we’ve got a blinder cloth which flies in behind the gauze. So, it creates the image of an opening eye, effectively. So if you open and close your eye, the iris opening and closing. 

So, we use that in the show for many things. Quite often to create a door but also just to close off the area upstage of the cross wall, the scenery wall so we can set scenes behind it and the acting company can set themselves. So when we open it up the next scene is ready to go.

[J] So, do you work on all of this, so you’re head of all of this? 

[BL] Yes. I’m in charge of the automation. So, anything that moves that isn’t being pushed or pulled by a person I’m in charge of. Yeah. 

[J] So, the iris opening and closing, you do all of that?

[BL] Yep. We do all of that, we do the bed up and down. Do the magic carpet.

[J] Wow.

[S] How many times have you worked on A Christmas Carol?

[BL] Well we’ve done A Christmas Carol three times. We did it in 2018, 2019 and this year 2022. And we run the show for usually two and a half months. So, if we do eight shows a week for two and a half months we’ve done A Christmas Carol for quite a lot of shows.

[J] And is it a different set up and everything every time?

[BL] It’s slightly different every time because we get different actors. This year the lead role is Ade Edmondson, so in the 80s and 90s he was a very comedic actor. He’s done lots of funny television and then later on his career he got a lot more serious. And now he’s fortunate enough, and we’re fortunate enough to have him join us in Stratford to put on A Christmas Carol.

Shall we go and have a look at the control box? 

[J] Yeah.

[BL] Excellent. 

[Sound effects]

[J] So this is backstage, like no one is allowed here, right?

[BL] This is backstage.

[J] Oh wow. 

[BL] People do come along here but they don’t usually get into the control room.

[J] Woah.

[BL] Right folks this is the control box. This is where the lighting department control all the lights and where stage management sit and control the show. Communication is vital in theatre. We use cans, so the headsets with mouthpieces, microphones, so we can always talk to each other at the same time and get all the timing correct for each sequence in the show. So, we have lots of cues. 

Yeah. We’ve just been showing some headsets and a cans pack!

Yeah so we’d have possibly up to 30 to 40 people backstage all dressed in black, behind the scenes that hopefully the audience doesn’t see. Wearing the cans packs being coordinated by the deputy stage manager who’s controlling the queuing desk. As you can see we’ve got a couple of follow spot here. So, in amongst this room it gets quite busy cause you’ve obviously got the desk operator for lighting.

Head this way just towards the window. Don’t trip down.

[J] So do you learn what all these buttons do?

[BL] This is not my desk, this is lighting, so all I know is I don’t touch anything!


Yeah so as you can see, you can see the stage here. This is a sound proof room. So us talking can’t be heard by the audience in their seats. But what we do have is we have a tannoy system, there’s microphones in the auditorium, so that we pipe the sound from the stage into here real time. So that we can hear what’s going on. Cause sometimes you might have cues, which are called a verbal cue by the actors. So, just by the actor saying their lines, might cause a cueing sequence to change into the next scene. 

[J] Wow.

[BL] It does get quite complicated. Brilliant, let’s head back out and we’ll go upstairs to my area.

[Sound effects]

[BL] So, this is the technical area. 

[J] Wow.

[BL] So these are known as the technical bridges. In front of us you can see all of the equipment that you don’t really get to see from the seats. The audience don’t see this. Pariculay in show conditions cause all the lights go dark and then everything becomes invisible.

In front of us we can see these are snow machines. If you just come this way a little bit, we’re just moving to the edge of the technical area. So we’re just above the edge of the stage. You can see we’ve got big speakers. These are moving lamps, the snow machines and then blacks and borders. They do two things, the blacks. They’re quite important. One, they hide the set and the lights from being seen but they also help suppress echoey noise. So the more blacks we can have hanging high in the theatre the better the voices work on stage. They’re double purpose, not many people know that.

So you can see that we’ve got some chandeliers, so these chandeliers are a bit of a partnership between Automation and Lighting. So we will hang the chandeliers, we will control the movement up and down of them. But lighting will switch the lights on to make the candles, which aren’t actually candles. They’re lights but they look and they flicker like candles. So they control the lighting effect, we control the motion. 

Sometimes we’ll have people who will abseil. So they’ll be on a material rope and they’ll go down and they’ll control themselves with a descender. They’ll wear a harness and they have to be harness trained. And we have to do load testing and we usually get an expert in to do training and do our risk assessments.

[J] And so you were saying when you have to clear the theatre you have to take all of this stuff down?

[BL] So all the blacks, all the speakers, all the lighting, all the scenery that comes down. Then we have to take the chain hoist down because they have to be inspected. So, there’s a lot of safety and checks and maintenance inspection. 

[S] How did you feel the first time you walked up here?

[BL] I felt quite interesting, it was a building site the first time I walked up here. Cause we’d been in a transformation where we’d renovated the theatre about 16, 17 years ago. So it was a big empty space, there was no roof at that time.

We came in here and there was no stage, so the stage is actually underneath. There’s a space underneath, like a sub stage that goes down to minus one and minus two. It goes down about eight metres below the floor that you can see now. So, when we did a show in the past where we had a seven metre ladder and it came from minus two through minus one through the stage floor and went up in the air by five and a half metres.

[J] Wow.

[BL] As it moved up the actor got on top of the ladder and went up five and a half metres with the ladder to do a speech. That was Jonny Slinger, Jonathan Slinger in, I think it was Macbeth. That was good. And of course because it’s a safety thing we have to test that every show. We get to do the fun bit of riding those ladders, like we have to test the abseil lines.

[J] It’s like a free rollercoaster ride.

[BL] We can’t ask an actor to go up something we haven’t checked ourselves. 

[J] So how does changing over for the shows work?

[BL] OK. There’s a lot of planning and there’s a lot of communication. Basically we have to be able to change from say Much Ado About Nothing to Merchant of Venice in two hours. Because on a Saturday for instance, we’ll have a one o’clock performance of Much Ado About Nothing that will finish at about four, four thirty. But then we have to change out of that. So we have to fly all of the scenic pieces out or take them to the wings. The storage areas backstage. And pull the floor up and put that on big big dollies. They’re platforms with wheels so we can roll them and the floor away, as the floor comes up in 30 sections of big sheets of wood. Then once we’ve cleared away Much Ado About Nothing we’ll put Merchant of Venice in, or whatever show happens to be. And we have to do exactly the same in the opposite

So we have an hour to take the first show out and an hour to put the second show in. Then we do show checks and then in a mad panic we open the house to the audience so they can watch the quarter past seven show. 

[J] Wow.

[BL] It gets quite busy. 

[S] So does all the setting kind of revolve around what play it’s going to be and what time it’s going to be? 

[BL] Yes. The play is the thing really. The creative team will have a vision of how they’re going to put the play on. One version of Macbeth will be very modern and the next version two or three years later might be very old fashioned and very traditional. So the setting of the show is vital really to each play and ideally we don’t want every play to be the same. So if you come and see one show in the morning you want the look of the second show in the evening to be very different. So it gives a much wider experience to our customers, the audience. 

[Sound effects]

[BL] And on our right here we have the green room. So, this is where the staff and acting company can come and have their lunches, evening meals and breakfasts. There’s a nice little balcony out there and little terrace overlooking the river and the park on the other side of the river. 

[J] Wow.

[BL] Yeah wow, it’s brilliant, isn’t it?

[J] It’s a nice view.

[BL] You can see the rowers rowing up and down. You’ve got the walkers and dog walkers. And just through the trees there’s a semi-famous pub, The Dirty Duck. Just over The Dirty Duck you can see the big rectangular building that’s The Other Place. It was built as a temporary theatre in 2004, 2005, which we used while the RST was being refurbished. 

It was called The Courtyard Theatre then but now it’s been transformed into some rehearsal rooms and a studio theatre. It’s reverted back to its old name, The Other Place.

[S] Thank you so much for giving us this opportunity to talk to you.

[BL] It’s an absolute pleasure. It’s been a real joy and you’ve asked some really great questions.

[J] It’s been wonderful. 

[BL] You’ve made me think quite hard. 

[J] I’ve learnt a lot actually. 

[BL] That’s good.

[J] Thank you so much.

[BL] Glad you enjoyed it. 

[J] I’m still processing, I never thought I’d actually be doing a podcast.

[Background noise]

[J] And then we met some members of the front of house team and asked if we could have a little chat. 

[Paige] Hi I’m Paige Calvert and I’m a front of house assistant at the RSC.

[Matt] Hi everyone my name’s Matt and I’m a member of the front of house team.

[S] Could you explain what front of house is?

[P] Yeah so front of house. So when you think of the Royal Shakespeare Company as a theatre with there’s back of house and front of house. Back of house are the actors, the stage managers, the technical crew, lighting, sound, costumes, hair and make-up. Front of house is the group that sort of welcomes the public and is front facing where we engage with audience members and anyone making enquiries or just the sort of general public who can view the building during the day. 

[S] Has it been a busy day today?

[P] Today, not terribly busy because depending on where you’re stationed you either are sort of interacting with a lot of the public at the front end of the building or I’m currently stationed at the circle. 

[S] Have you got any fun or exciting stories that you’d like to share about your job?

[M] You get to see front stage and back stage you get to know the actors quite well because we’re around each other for two or three months. You get to see the show about 40 or 50 times and you can see how it develops over the run as well, because the actors change little bits and they can hear the audience sort of laughing to particular gags and jokes and so they tune those. So you can really see how it evolves over the run.

[J] Has there been any exciting experiences or something you’d want to tell us?

[P] Yeah sure. This week actually we’ve had a lot of school groups. I don’t know if A Christmas Carol is part of the curriculum at the moment but we had a total of 14 school groups on the entirety of Thursday. So, watching the students, there is a part in the show, I won’t spoil it exactly, but it’s a moment where it’s like a jump scare where something exciting happens and just watching all the school children react to that was really really fun.

[M] You can never be entirely sure what’s going to come each time you turn up for work. If you think you’ve got a thousand people things are going to go wrong or people are going to get lost or you don’t really know what’s going on. So really our job is to be there to guide them around the theatre and to get them comfortably and safely into their seats. To make sure they have a great time, but I think most importantly is to ensure that everybody is safe. 

[Sandy Smith Wilson] Hi I’m Sandy.

[S] Hi I’m Sanjna. 

[SSW] Sanjna. Nice to meet you. 

[J] Hiya I’m Jaanvi. 

[S] A little later we met Sandy in the Paccar Room. Just outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

[Sound effects] 

[SSW] Hello my name is Sandy Smith Wilson and I’m the Head of Running Wardrobe at the Royal Shakespeare Company. So are you at college then?

[J] We’re at Stratford Girls Grammar School.

[SSW] Oh, are you? Wow.

[J] I’m in year 10 and she’s in year 7. 

[SSW] Great and what makes you want to do this? What makes you want to find out about theatre?

[J] Well, we saw Matilda when I was in year 6 and I thought it was amazing and I think that’s what got me thinking about theatre in general. And so we found out about this in Stratford and Shout Out for the Arts. 

[SSW] Great.

[S] So what is Running Wardrobe? 

[SSW] So Running Wardrobe is the department that maintain all the costumes for the show. So we do any running repairs, you know if something gets ripped on stage then we’ll fix it. 

My team also dress all the actors so they work out the quick changes with the actors and where they need to be and what they’re going to be wearing. And also we do all the laundry for the show as well. So the laundry, as you can imagine, in a show like A Christmas Carol is quite big.

We tend to launder anything that touches the skin directly, so after every show the shirts will be laundered, but normally we have two sets of shirts. So that we can do a matinee show and then an evening show. And still have a break and have routine in between.

[S] Oh wow. So what are the plays you have worked on then?

[SSW] Well I oversee the Running Wardrobe for all the shows here and for the tours and for the festivals at TOP (The Other Place) as well. Before I came here I worked in the West End, I was the head of wardrobe for a lot of the big musicals that were in the West End. 

[S] How would you best describe your job in three words?

[SSW] Exciting. Different. And challenging at times.

[J] So do you have quite a big team working on all of it?

[SSW] So my team just now there’s ten of us in the team. But normally when we do shows normally we will have three wardrobe technicians that dress and then we’ll have a senior and a senior’s deputy. So five people for each show that we do. It’s not a huge team, so we’ll have five in the RST and five in the Swan.

[S] So you said that your job is sometimes challenging, what challenges do you usually face?

[SSW] Things like blood is always a challenge. 

[S] Blood?

[SSW] Yes because we use a lot of fake blood in shows! So we use a lot of fake blood in shows and depending on the fabrics that the designer has chosen, you know sometimes it can be a challenge because there might be fabrics that you can’t really wash that well or can’t really wash at high temperature. So you can’t really get rid of all the blood. So sometimes that can be a challenge.

Other challenges would be if people were doing something on stage and the costume was constantly ripped. We would look and see if there was any other sort of way we could alter those costumes to make it more durable for what they need to do on stage. 

[J] Could you talk us through what a typical day in your job looks like?

[SSW] So a typical day for Running Wardrobe would be the team come in. They put all the laundry in the machines and sometimes that’s done at the end of the night of each show. They can empty all of the machines, dry and iron and steam all the costumes.

What we have to do as well, this is really important, we record the show. We have a thing called costume description lists which itemises every single item of costume that an actor wears. Then we photograph them as well and we put that in the same document. And so we know in the future if that show ever came back we know exactly what people are wearing. Right down to the earrings.

We document everything. So, that’s all the paperwork that we have to work on. We do also a thing called check offs which is a piece of paperwork that tells the dressing team where all the individual pieces of costume have to live. So they go and look and see it’s there and they literally check it off. So by the time the curtain goes up we know that every item of costume is in the right place for the beginning of the show.

[J] You have to be really organised to work in Running Wardrobe then.

[SSW] Yeah. You have to be really organised.

[S] What made you want to do this job?

[SSW] I went to see a show in Glasgow when I was about 11 years of age. It was the first time I had been to the theatre. And it was a pantomime and I just thought it was the best thing, the best experience. Never been to the theatre before so that whole experience just blew my mind. And then I was always interested in fashion and I could you know at quite an early age I used to make, try to make, my own clothes.

And then I kind of married the two things up. This love of theatre and being able to make clothes. So that was the beginning of it, that was the start of it for me. 

[J] What is some advice you would give to younger people who are looking to get into this aspect of theatre?

[SSW] I think just keep that passion going. I know that we’re doing a lot of work at entry level, come and join the theatre. It’s so important. Certainly we throw our doors open when anybody is really excited to be part of theatre. So yeah I think keep the passion, hone your skills if you’re creative in any way and if you like making costumes. Don’t let anything stop you.

[S] What would you tell your younger self? 

[SSW] My younger self. Do you know what? I think from a career point of view I don’t think I would have changed anything that I’ve done. I feel really lucky that I work in a job that I love so much that it doesn’t feel like work. So that’s really nice.

[J] Everyone’s dream. And did you know you’d be doing this when you were younger? Did you know in your mind you wanted to do this?

[SSW] Yeah.

[J] So you’ve lived out your dream then really?

[SSW] Yeah. Since walking into that theatre, it was at the Glasgow Citizens Theatre. Since walking in there I knew I wanted to work in theatres. What’s not to love about it? You know, one minute I could be working with Elizabethean costume and all the ruffs. And then the next minute I could be in working with Roman togas. 

[J] Big variety. 

[SSW] It’s a huge variety. 

[S] How’s your work on A Christmas Carol going? Are you enjoying it?

[SSW] Yeah we are, we’re really enjoying it actually because it’s such a wide range of fabrics as well within the show. And beautiful, beautiful period costumes, right? 

[Hosts] Yeah.

[SSW] It’s great. Sometimes, you know, there’s certain looks in the show that we need to keep absolutely immaculate because they’re in a party scene or whatever. And then there’s other looks in the show, like Want and Ignorance when they’re all wearing rags and they’re all muddy and whatever. And we equally enjoy working on them as well, keeping them to a  certain level of being dishevelled. 

[J] And how does the process start of Running Wardrobe?

[SSW] Well Running Wardrobe is actually the end of a really long process because it normally starts with the designer and then the designs go into the workshops across the road. All the work rooms and they create the costumes and the costumes are delivered to us two days prior to the tech period. And then that’s the official handover that those costumes now live under Running Wardrobe. We look after them from that point. So we’re at the end of the process, so to speak.

[Music plays]

[J] Thank you so much for this, it’s been really interesting.

[SSW] Pleasure. It’s been lovely to meet yous.

[J] And you guys.

[Music Plays] 

[S] That’s been a long day of interviewing some amazing people. More members of Shout Out for the Arts will visit more places and continue to Unravel the Arts.

[J] But until then if you want to find out more do check out Shout Out for the Arts dot co, dot UK.

[S] Thank you so much for listening. And until next time. Bye. 

[Music plays] 

Photos by Shout Out for the Arts.

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