RSC costume workshop reopens after two-year restoration

Published: 11 June 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

The new RSC costume workshop Credit: Sam Allard
The new RSC costume workshop Credit: Sam Allard

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s costume workshop has been restored and redeveloped, with its 30-strong team of costume makers moving back into the building which has more space.

The costume workshop team had to relocate for two years while the restoration took place. This involved packing and moving 3,500 pairs of shoes, 36 mannequins, 45 sewing machines and a pre-1950s anvil.

All the items are now in the new costume workshop which for the first time will be open to visitors. Guided tours are expected to start in 2022.

The workshop is opposite the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres on the site of the 1887 Memorial Theatre scene dock which is now the entrance to the building.

The RSC has the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre and the future of costume making on the Stratford site has been secured through a mixture of public and private support.

More than 30,000 people from around the world supported the RSC’s Stitch in Time campaign to raise money for the restoration. Funding also came from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the government's local growth fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership. A total of £8.7 million was raised.

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said, "the team create amazing costumes every year but were doing so in conditions that weren’t fit for purpose. Costumes are integral to an actor's performance. As Judi Dench said, 'no matter how much rehearsal time you have, you can’t get fully into the part until you are in costume'.”