Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


Part 3 - Costumes

3.1 - The Rescue
3.2 - Bearing Gama's Arms
3.3 -Their Aid I Thus Disclaim
3.3.1 - A Word About Battle Armour

3.1 - The Rescue

David Duffey: I find the least convincing part of any production to be the rescue. I used to be able to mollify my eldest daughter's objection to Iolanthe arising dry from her stream by citing supernatural powers. She still gleefully taunts me about Ida and Hilarian remarkable feat of completely drying themselves and their clothes in a maximum of 16 bars.

David Craven: Why not have a large bucket of water back stage and douse Ida and Hilarious with it . . . That way they are wet and you also have the benefit of motivating the three brave brothers' armour removal number. Hilarion, being wet, removes his shirt to prepare for the battle. His two pals, who seem to be willing to go along with almost anything, think that he is doing this to be able to fight better (Whereas he is really doing it so that he is not slowed down by a wet and soggy shirt). The three brave brothers decide to remove their armour in order to have enough speed to be able to fight the three popinjays...

Michael Walters: Yes, if you can get the costumes dry again for the next performance!

But surely Act 3 takes place long enough after Act 2 for him to had time to dry himself, or caught his death of cold!!!

Bill Snyder: As Hilarion & Ida came out of the water, we tried a little slight of-singer. They were wrapped immediately in the picnic blankets from the meadow of asphodel, their faces and hair having been sprayed backstage. They kept those on just long enough to give the audience a chance to let the incongruity of emerging dry from the river wear off.

Nick Sales: The way we handled this last year in Alistair Donkin's production at C.A.O.S. was to have us both (i.e. Me - Hilarion and Sue Minshull - Ida) disappear from sight, and do a lightning-quick change into similar-but-ruined/covered-in-weeds versions of our previous costumes. This necessitated a frantic throwing off of clothes backstage - not too bad for me, as my costume wasn't too difficult to handle, but Sue's costume was much more elaborate, and every night there was that moment when we thought "she's not going to make it", but she always made it just in time for "Stand forth, ye three". Once a professional . . .

Bob and Jackie Richards: Agreement - and that is why we cut it and "Oh, joy . . .". I came straight in with "Stand forth ye three". With a slight change to the words in the finale (instead of "even though he saved my life" I sang "even though I am his wife") it worked as the drowning scene adds nothing much to the plot. And at least I had the dignity of singing the wonderful finale to Act II with dry hair.

3.2 - Bearing Gama's Arms

David Duffey: I have never actually seen or heard of any designer who as taken up the above punning reference and devised an heraldic achievement for Gama to be worn by him, his sons and their suite. It would make sense, and look good during the striptease too if the long-johns were similarly adorned.

It might be fun to design Gama's arms in a way that depicts his character. Not that I could do it.

Rica Mendes: This is so exciting! I did, actually, design Gama's arms! (and legs . . . had to do it, sorry!)

I can't recall if they were used in the 3P production in Philly, but they were used at Oberlin! I also designed Hildebrand's, worn by all the soldiers, and the actress who portrayed Ida, with my help, designed her own.

They were as follows:

Gama: Dress Coat of Arms: Half Blue/Half Reptile skin (green) with a purple stripe divider on the diagonal - you know, two triangles (actually recycled from our production of Gondoliers and recently used in the well received parody "For I am a Lizard King")

Non-Dress Arms/soldier's tabard: A large blue felt banner with a purple shield with hypotenuses touching an ermine corner and a red corner, and a large green lizard wearing a crown and silver detail.

Hildebrand's Coat of Arms/Soldier's Tabards: A red square on a yellow background with a yellow "rook" and gold detail.

Ida's Coat of Arms: Purple background with teal blue, burgundy and copper geometric shapes.

The logic behind the colors:

Gama is rather reptilian, isn't he? Plus, the actor looked rather eerie in winter colors, and it made him look pale, so I figured it would suit him.

Hildebrand is a hot-tempered fellow, so I figured fire colors would suit his personality and counter Gama's cool colors very well. In addition, the actors who (finally) played him had wonderful golden hair, making Hildebrand one big hunk of fiery gold.

I figured that Ida should remain more/less neutral. But, keeping in mind that she is Gama's daughter, her colors shouldn't stray too far from his, so by using purples, she was able to use her fathers color-scheme (blue and purple and green) in her banner, but it was different enough that it showed her independence.

Bill Snyder: Summer Savoyards '81 IDA had Hildebrand's arms as a gold lion on a blue field and Ida's were a silver unicorn on a field, the color of which I can't remember, and Gama's arms were a purple snake in the grass, colors which extended to his costume.

Janice Dallas: When I was the Costume Designer for Ida, I designed a heraldic device, thinking to use it for her and her students. I ended up putting it on Hildebrand and his forces. It was a Shield of blue, with a broad stripe of red, running from left top to right bottom. This stripe was paralleled by a stripe on each side of gold metallic. In the upper right hand corner, I put a white tower over a sun of metallic gold. For the second Ida, I changed the gold to silver, as it went better with the chain mail. The shield was sewn to the front of white heraldic gowns, such as the crusaders wore. I can't remember now why I chose the various symbols, but they made sense at the time.

Ida's banners had crossed swords in silver, wound with climbing roses, on a White shield. To their right were the words "Castle Adamant. In the first Ida that I designed, her brothers had their Initials in gold on a red sun, as a device on their gilded "boiled leather" style armor (with studded "leather" skirt strips). They had fun rearranging them selves to spell gas (could also be G and S), and sag, after first appearing as ags. Silly, but the audience loved it.

We've also done heraldic devices and banners for Camelot, (Pellinore's had a questing beast on it), and Man For All Seasons (tried to be as accurate as possible for that).

3.3 -Their Aid I Thus Disclaim

David Duffey: I suppose that the Velcro age has made Arac's song much less stressful in performance. I recall the days of string and ribbon, when the song was much feared. The costumes always arrived too late for much practice, and removing the armour frequently involved untying knots which were behind one's back.

During the first Ida I ever played in, with great presence of mind the wardrobe department provided some of the ladies with scissors in case of dire emergency. Seeing Arac fumbling, a helpful chorister darted forward and promptly stabbed him in the hand. He howled and started dancing around cursing and splattering blood over everything, and had to go off.

With great presence of mind Guron sang the next verse, and not to be outdone Scynthius the last. The stage staff managed to bandage Arac and get him back on in time for the fight.

Since that time I have always suggested that the trio have pages to help them undress, and similarly suggested dividing the song between all three. It gives the other two so much more interest. The suggestions have not always been adopted.

Steve Sullivan: We have always divided Arac's song among the three brothers. In the score, the pitch for the lobster verse is shifted down so that Scynthius can sing it. (Otherwise I could not have sung it.) Does anyone know if it was Sullivan's intent to pitch the lobster verse so that Scynthius could sing it.

Gwyn Aubrey: Armour removal can usually be shortcut by an efficient and masochistic costuming staff as follows:

The ribbons that hold the armor on are basted, not sewn. At the key points, the armor is literally ripped off. Of course, after every performance, the ribbons must be basted back on, in exactly the same way, and care taken not to sew too loose or too tightly. (Used dramatically by Tybalt in a performance of Romeo and Juliet.)

Russian roulette. God bless Velcro.

3.3.1 - A Word About Battle Armour

David Duffey: Tournament armour was indeed heavy and cumbersome, as the movements performed in it were restricted and stylised, and dodging was just not the done thing.

Battle armour, on the other hand, was lighter and far more jointed. Henry VIII's suit, in the museum of the Tower of London, has over a hundred joints, does not admit a pin, and weighs about 40kg, which is less than a fully equipped modern infantry soldier carries. Embleton & Howe give a weight of 52lbs for full armour in the c15, making the point that its weight would be better distributed than carried by a modern infantryman.

Pictures exist of fully armoured knights turning cartwheels and vaulting into the saddle. There is a reference by Olivier de la Marche of Galliot de Balthasin swimming the Danube in full armour after the battle of Nicopolis. There are probably recorded because they were exceptional fetes, but the implication is that battle armour was probably not as restricting as Arac implies, and that he and his brothers would have been better advised to keep it on.

Page created 10 May 1998