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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 September 2018

Royal Shakespeare Company opens its wardrobe contents for sale

Period costume fans and eagle-eyed souvenir collectors will join those on the hunt for a bargain, as the Royal Shakespeare Company mounts a Costume Jumble Sale with prices from £1

Pick yourself up a costume from Othello (2015) at the RSC Costume Jumble Sale Courtesy Keith Pattison / RSC.
Pick yourself up a costume from Othello (2015) at the RSC Costume Jumble Sale Courtesy Keith Pattison / RSC.

If “the apparel oft proclaims the man”, as Polonius tells us in Shakespeare's Hamlet, what then do the clothes of the Royal Shakespeare Company tell us? Now is your chance to find out.

More than 10,000 items are going on sale during the theatre company’s ‘Costume Jumble Sale’, giving Shakespeare fans, costume enthusiasts and collectors a chance to buy a piece of theatre history.

The items include dresses, suits, jewellery, shoes, hats and accessories, plus armoury.

The RSC productions often use contemporary settings and costumes. One such is Hamlet in 2008, which starred David Tennant as the Prince of Denmark wearing a novelty T-shirt that featured a print of a muscled man’s torso. Most pieces are labelled with the names of the actors who originally wore them. In a previous jumble sale organised by the RSC, one eagle-eyed customer spotted a pair of slippers also worn by Tennant during his performance as Hamlet. Uniform coats will also be sold from the same production.

On the racks, a selection of the 10,000 items going on sale from past RSC productions. Courtesy Lucy Barriball / RSC
On the racks, a selection of the 10,000 items going on sale from past RSC productions. Courtesy Lucy Barriball / RSC

The sale will include some of these more modern pieces as well as period items such as close-fitting Elizabethan jackets known as doublets.

Prices begin at £1 (Dh4.7) and in previous sales some more elaborate items have fetched more than £100.

The costumes available to purchase are sourced from RSC productions stretching back over the past 20 years, including Julius Caesar (2009), Othello (2015), The Two Noble Kinsmen (2016) and Cymbeline (2016).

“Costumes are an essential part of any production here at the RSC,” says Alistair McArthur, head of costume.

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“People are often surprised to learn that we create the vast majority of them ourselves in our costume workshops. I am very proud of the talented team that makes the costumes: all of their skills, and the diverse range of costumes they make, will be reflected in the items in this Costume Jumble Sale."

The RSC boasts the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre, employing 30 award-winning craftspeople. They are responsible for making the costumes for productions in Stratford seen by millions of people around the world. As well as constructing the men’s and ladies’ costumes, the staff are skilled in dyeing and printing, as well as making armour and millinery.

Pick yourself up a milliner’s creation or a coat at the RSC Costume Jumble Sale. Courtesy Lucy Barriball / RSC
Pick yourself up a milliner’s creation or a coat at the RSC Costume Jumble Sale. Courtesy Lucy Barriball / RSC

Many of the garments on sale have been chosen by RSC Costume Hire, which hires out the theatre attire once the productions end.

The RSC has plans to restore and redevelop its Costume Workshop, housed in an assortment of buildings on Waterside opposite the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The new workshop is estimated to cost £8.7 million (Dh41.3m) and subject to planning permission, the two-year project should start in the spring. As well as raising money to fund this redevelopment, the RSC hopes the sale will create more space to house newer costumes available for hire.

Previous sales have seen queues around the block and long waiting times; however, due to a staggered release of items throughout the day, most attendees are able to get in and take part.

This year’s jumble sale will be held on September 23 in the former RSC rehearsal rooms in Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of playwright William Shakespeare and the natural home of the RSC. An entry ticket of £3 is required on the day.

A rotating display of costumes from the RSC Collection can be seen in the RSC’s new permanent exhibition, The Play’s The Thing, in the Swan Wing area of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The RSC Costume Jumble Sale, September 23, 9am to 5pm, former RSC rehearsal rooms, Arden Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. Entry £3. See www.rsc.org.uk

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