They’ve been making costumes for pantomimes at Whissendine for a combined 70 years but Sarah Bysouth, Jean Parkes and Jill Fenby-Taylor never get a chance to enjoy any of the performances because they are too busy back stage making alterations and dealing with clothing emergencies.
As Whissendine STARS amateur dramatic group prepares for their latest production - Panto at the OK Corral - Sarah, Jean and Jill are once again beavering away to produce the clothing which helps bring each show to life.
Incredibly, the group say they have never had to hire a costume for 30 years and that’s despite more than 50 outfits being needed for each production.
Sarah gave an insight into the pressure this trio of talented amateur seamstresses is under when she recalled: “In one particular pantomime, we had over 29 children and over 100 costumes were needed.”
Over the years the ladies have been nominated for many awards from the Panto Alliance - a group which promotes the art of panto throughout Leicestershire - for the quality of their costumes, which have ranged from Sinbad the Sailor to a rabbit.
“The most elaborate costume has to be the parrot that Jean made,” said Sarah.
“And we often have to cut up two dresses in different styles to make just one special one, particularly for the Dame.”
Without the razzmatazz of outlandish outfits to enhance each performance, the Whissendine performers would lack the vibrance and colour they need to bring the stage to life.
Jill commented: “I work in the charity shop, Mind, in Oakham and another villager, Annette Hatton, works for Rutland and Leicestershire Air Ambulance, so together we are able to source many items for our costumes.”
Preparations for new costumes begin three months before the actors take to the stage with their all-important dress rehearsals.
Sadly, none of the costume ladies ever get to see a performance as their skills are always required back stage helping with the numerous costume changes that take place, not to mention the sudden repair that is needed.
The unpicking and cutting up of dresses and hours of alterations are undoubtedly a labour of love – and then there are always the emergencies to contend with. Jean recalled: “Swift action was needed last year when, due to last minute illness, a costume had to be made in just 30 minutes before the curtain went up.”
There is no doubt that part of the magic of being in a pantomime is the dressing up and, for all the young actors, having individually-fitted costumes adds to the excitement.
One of the youngsters who has performs with the group, Shannon Quinn, said: “One of the best things about being in the panto is wearing different costumes.”
Panto at the OK Corral is on at Whissendine Village Hall on Februart 5, 7 and 8 and tickets are available from the village shop or by calling Claire on 01664 474373.