One of York’s most iconic buildings is making an unexpected appearance in a York pantomime.
A spectacular dress modelled on Clifford’s Tower, which has looked over the city since 1245, is worn by the Dame in Jack and the Beanstalk at the York Theatre Royal.
The dress was designed by the theatre’s head of wardrobe Hazel Fall and made by deputy wardrobe supervisor Janet Hull.
Hazel’s brief was to design a dress for Dame Trott – played by Robin Simpson – that represented York.
“Walking past Clifford’s Tower one day I realised it was the perfect shape for a human body,” says Hazel.
“When you’re designing it’s always good to start with a shape and colour, of course, is important.
“I looked at lots of photographs of Clifford’s Tower from all possible angles. Finding the right sort of fabric for the grass part of the dress was difficult to find as it had to look like the texture of the grass.”
The outfit is completed with a hat – or rather a hot air balloon.
Hazel also designed an afternoon tea dress for the Dame, a costume that makes the Dame look like she’s wearing a table laid up for a tea party, complete with cups, saucers, teapot and cake stand (worn as a hat).
“The tea dress really came about with Bettys in mind and that York is full of afternoon tea spaces and cafes. We went for pink and sparkly for the colour.”
Janet made both two dresses while Hazel made the headdresses. The costumes took four to five weeks to make.
The theatre’s chief electrician and lighting programmer Craig Kilmartin helped with the final touches by adding lights to the dress.
Clifford’s Tower was the keep of York Castle and was first built by William the Conqueror 950 years ago to dominate the greatest city in the North. In recent years English Heritage has undertaken a major project at the site to protect its historic fabric and to enhance visitors’ understanding and enjoyment of it.
The Dame and the Clifford’s Tower dress can be seen in Jack and the Beanstalk at York Theatre Royal, until 7 January. For tickets ring 01904 623568 or visit the website.