- The Stage - https://www.thestage.co.uk -

The Green Room: What is the worst costume you have ever worn?

Meet our panel: We have given our panellists pen-names and used stock images but their biographies reflect their real career details…​​​​​​

Gary Abblett is a 38-year-old jobbing actor with experience at the National, Royal Shakespeare Company, in the West End and on tour

Dicky Benfield is an actor in his 40s. He has worked in the West End, at the NT, the Globe and in regional theatres as well as appearing on TV

Albert Parker is 60 and has appeared as a regular in soaps, two BAFTA-winning sitcoms, theatre and TV


Peter Quince, 72, works in theatre and television


Jenny Talbot is 39 and has 20 years of experience in West End and touring musical theatre with occasional forays into TV, film and plays


Annie Walker is 25. Since graduating from drama school, she has worked predominantly in regional theatres and is also a writer and street performer


Jenny It’s funny with costumes. Somehow, no matter how vile they are, I seem to fall in love with them. Even in amdram. You can pretty much put me in anything and if I love the character enough, I will love the costume.

Albert In my first job in theatre, I wore a hat so ridiculous I took it with me on the train as we changed towns. Sadly, it left through the train window somewhere north of Oxford.

Dicky I once entered in a full Womble costume with a foot-long spliff.

Annie I once played a cave woman. The costume had real fur (I’m a vegan) and fake fur up my nostrils, which as an allergy sufferer was dreamy. My grunting was bang on.

Peter I was a pantomime horse. Fortunately, I was the front half, but I did once break wind, which didn’t go down well.

JonI was hoping we’d get a pantomime horse.

Peter And during one performance the back legs were off.

I was the front of a pantomime cow. The back end became very famous

Albert I was the front of a pantomime cow. I was hoping not to have to reveal that. The back end became very famous.

JonDon’t they always?

Annie Back in the days before I knew you could be a professional actor and I thought the height of it all was amdram, I played Gertie the Camel in a local panto. I was the front end. And I was once a tree. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

Gary My worst costume was as a goose in Berwick-upon-Tweed panto. Marigolds for feet, duvet with a couple of skanky seagull feathers sellotaped to it for the main body, modified baseball cap for beak, gauze over face.

JonThat sounds very similar to my dodo experience: swimsuit, beak, swimcap, flippers. All to cross the stage once, and backwards.

Dicky Percy the Postbox for a local council Democracy Week.

Albert A postbox? I wonder what the critics said about your delivery?

Dicky First class.

Albert Touché. I have found that as I got older, people tend to dress me better. They tend to listen to you a little more about what suits you, and work from that. There’s nothing worse than playing a character who’s supposed to look good and they decide to dress you in gingham.

Jenny Anyone who has done a certain long-running jukebox musical will always say the Act II opening costume…

JonHa, Jenny – I have heard that so much from people who have done that show.

Jenny It’s a horrendous costume.

Peter And of course the old ‘furs in summer, loincloth in winter’ syndrome.

JonOh god, yes. People should never put on plays in summer that are set somewhere cold in the winter. People wrapped up in fur, dripping with sweat, saying how cold they are.

Albert In a certain recent historical televisual epic, we were so hot filming in a castle one afternoon, the actors started to collapse.

JonReally? Collapsing rather than asking: “Can I have a glass of water?” We’re so biddable.

Albert Believe me, it was hot. Glasses of water abounded, but so did fainting. Like skittles. Even I had to sit down for five minutes.

JonOn the flipside, a mate of mine presented a TV show on a warehouse set and you could see his breath. It should be easy enough to keep a studio warm, shouldn’t it?

Peter I’ve worn a wig that made people corpse when I came on stage.

JonEvery night? Or did they eventually get used to it?

Peter They eventually controlled it. But it took a while.

JonI’ve done the rounds of dressing rooms when I’ve gone on as a cover. “This is my wig. I’m showing it to you now so you don’t laugh when you see it on stage.”

Peter And, of course, a flapping moustache is a very good look.

Albert Throughout my 20s, everything I did in theatres seemed to involve armour or rags and an awful lot of dirt. I longed to walk on through French windows in a lounge suit.

Jenny I love those moments early on in a run when you look at everyone dressed up in different kinds of crazy and you think: “This is our job – this is what we get paid to do.” It’s lovely to get nice costumes. I’d worn five wedding dresses on stage before I ever wore one in real life. Half the reason I went into this business was to play dress-up.

Annie I played a ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ type for Road. Had to wear a tiny skirt and top with bra out and flash my pants and all that. My heart sank when I saw the design but of course, I loved it once we opened. Best worst costume.

Nakedness is always hugely uncomfortable for an audience and it is 99% avoidable

Dicky Skimpy costumes are one thing, but actual nakedness is always hugely uncomfortable for an audience and it is 99% avoidable.

JonYou always know they’re not listening if someone’s naked on stage.

Peter Some actors are so proud of what they’ve got they insist on taking their clothes off.

JonI know of one actor who would be seen fluffing in the wings before he went on, just to make things more… impressive.

Albert I know people who’ve done that before getting into bed.