Costumes for the play are going to be pretty representational and tokenistic. That is an ideological decision in relation to the sort of theatre we are trying to create – storytelling brought to life – but also a practical one, as we have only the budget which I can raise. People sometimes accuse Brechtian theatre of being merely a justification for being cheap, but I don’t have a problem with that; theatre ought to be cheap, or at least not just something you throw money at to solve your problems, or because someone has given you a big budget.
So. The cast will wear a base costume of black t-shirt (of which more at a later date) and black long skirts for the girls (provided by Gekko) and trousers for the boys (provided by themselves.) On top of that will be symbolic items to indicate the characters. But even those have to be sourced from somewhere; it’s not as though the cast can raid their parents’ wardrobes, for they have neither. Nor is there an abundance of charity shops to go to.
There is, however, Attika, a warehouse a few miles outside Mytilini which recycles donated clothes on an industrial scale. Andrew, one of the directors of Better Days, drove me out there, and we were able to solve some of our problems, chiefly some blankets which are going to be turned into cloaks for the royal family in the play. There were a couple of long shirts and overalls which, with the sleeves and collars removed, will serve as peasant jerkins. It was a little depressing, however, to see how much modern clothing simply does not survive very long, and has to be thrown away.
Other items – tabards for the soldiers, aprons for the servants – would have to be made from scratch. With the help of Maro, owner and landlady of the volunteers’ house just around the corner, as well as finance officer for Better Days, I was able to negotiate a good deal for some offcuts and end of roll pieces of fabric from the nearby drapers’ shop. Then it was a trip out to One Happy Family and the Women’s Centre there to hand it all over to Zahra and her friend. They were going to turn our dross into costume gold, in exchange for a reasonable hourly wage and a donation to the centre. If the costume question is not yet completely done, it can at least be parked for the time being.