Staff Spotlight: Jacquie Davies, Head of Wardrobe
From Hollywood stars to panto dames, Jacquie Davies gets up close and personal with every actor who takes to the stage in an e&P production. Jacquie has been the theatres’ costume supervisor since 2008 and has worked on every in-house show since then. With a background in textile design, she has worked in theatres across the North West and Wales, and on television soaps. “Working here is so creative – it’s a lovely environment where you’re surrounded with like-minded people," she says.
"My job is fantastic – I get to go shopping for shoes and handbags, and get to make beautiful things."
“There is a lovely working atmosphere and nobody has ever been ‘starry’ - we’re all working towards the goal of putting on a great show.” Once the designer and director have come up for the concept for a production, it is Jacquie’s job to make the costume designs a reality.
This is usually at the beginning of the rehearsal process, giving some four weeks for everything to be ready on time. At busy periods, Jacquie will take on assistants, but works alone for the most part. She shops for contemporary costumes and makes everything else by hand, taking on board suggestions from cast and crew about what might work best, while keeping things as comfortable and durable as possible.
She says: “Some actors have very strong ideas about what they want to wear, and that’s always good, to get to know that character a bit more. Some directors are really keen on costumes, and some are not especially interested. The requirements for a show can change a lot, but it’s an organic process.”
In panto season the reveals of the dame’s outlandish costume changes are a major part of the fun.
Jacquie is now so familiar with the requirements of Rock ‘n’ Roll panto regulars Francis Tucker and Adam Keast that she can crack on with work for the festive show much further in advance than regular productions – and with a to-do list that can include anything from princesses to prawns and cows to wicked queens, that can be just as well. Jacquie’s favourite panto dame outfits have included making a dress styled as a wok, and one as a garden, with steps coming out of the costume.
Of all the productions she has been involved in, Jacquie cites the three Roger McGough Molière adaptations - Tartuffe, The Misanthrope and The Hypochondriac – as her favourites over the years. A combination of the period detail of the costumes – often too expensive to re-create for the stage in full – twinned with modern flourishes made for an exciting visual spectacle as sparkling as the witty reworking of the text.
As with all other aspects of the design of the new Everyman, a fit-for-purpose space for costume-making was desperately needed; and now the department boasts the kind of workroom a dressmaker dreams of.
“The old Everyman wardrobe room was cold and definitely wasn’t ideal, and at the Playhouse it is rather small, which makes it tricky,” Jacquie explains. “Here I have got a purpose-built fitting room, that can be curtained off to be private; laundry and dyeing facilities; space for wig making and space to be able to create big things; fabulous state-of-the-art cutting tables and machines; there’s plenty of natural light – it’s fantastic. I still can’t wipe the smile off my face.”