Grey costume fitting

I’m sitting in a warehouse studio in Hanger Lane. Downstairs, loads of people are building things. Upstairs people are mostly running around. It’s high energy, last minute. They’ve pulled a chair out of a room and plonked me on it in a corridor, for want of a better place. People are trying on clothes in the rooms around me. There’s eight of us aged from 10 to about 73. Two men are running from room to room with different items of clothing. “Should we take the trousers off? What about the t-shirt, no the smaller one the one with the hood on. Too racy?” It feels very disordered, really last minute, but pleasant.

The whole brief for the job changed at two o’clock yesterday afternoon and everyone’s gone into flatspin. They had organised a whole load of costume for us, and then they were told that the client would prefer “ordinary” clothing. Somewhere in a board meeting, the important person said “Actually I don’t think the feel of this advert should be gothic.”  Cue panic dominoes. Everyone having to rethink everything with no time. The client is always right. Someone will have the job of returning a thousand rubber spiders and a glowing skull to the joke shop while somebody else buys a thousand doilies and a set of ceramic ducks. Occasionally the client asks the impossible. Frequently they ask the very very difficult. But – none of us would be here without them. So we make it work. It barely impacts our experience as actors. We just have to be sensitive tomorrow. And not say “Why does this mug have cobwebs on it?” – “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!!”

The wardrobe department have rolled with the change by dosing up on red bull, bitching lots, and just merrily getting on with it. Which bodes well for the atmosphere tomorrow.

With all these last minute changes, it’s no surprise that they’ll be sending a car for me before dawn. The pick-up is always early as they want to make damn sure the actors are there when they’re needed. There’s a huge amount going on with these shoots and loads of people with loads of jobs. As an actor you’re a cog in a machine. And no matter how functional a cog you are in that machine, you’d better get used to waiting. I knew that for the shoot. I’ll be bringing a book tomorrow. I didn’t expect it for the costume fitting. Normally you just walk into a room, drop your trousers, put things on while someone pins them a bit and tells you look great, and then you’re back in your own trousers and gone. But bless them, they’re stressing out today. They’re way behind. I’m going to be sitting in this corridor for hours.

Our time is being compensated so it’s fine. It’s quite funny listening to everyone flapping, bitching, joking and working. Right now one of the actors is giving her CV to the wardrobe guy. She’s a new actor, retired in 2007 and living on a pension. “I only ever play mad grannies,” she complains. I recognise another dude. He’s about 7 foot. I think I’ve seen him as a zombie. The obvious thing that binds us all together is we all look … a little weird. Apart from me of course, of course. I look amazing and sexy, not weird, what are you talking about? I was down for “servant.” The ‘tache, you see. But now the brief has changed. This new “normal” family of noticeable faces doesn’t have servants. So I’ve just been told I’ll be the weird uncle…

They got me in, and over the course of half an hour I tried on 8 grey shirts, 2 pairs of grey trousers and a luridly colored costume that I’m not at liberty to discuss “ooh you’re a good clothes horse. Looks like we’re going to have to use you as the stylish trendy uncle not the weird uncle. But I bet you can’t make THIS look stylish.” As I said, you usually get flattered. Still, I’ll buy it.


Now this stylish trendy clothes horse is off home to an early bed so he can be ready for that early car and the crazy day ahead. Meanwhile in an office somewhere, a man with a cigar turns round in his swivel chair. “You know what? Actually I think it SHOULD be gothic.”


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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