The world of the theatre has always had its draw, whether you’re taking a group to see a hit West End show or working behind the scenes, and for Wardrobe Manager Emma Mansfield there’s never a dull moment. Ahead of the opening of her latest production – The Spoils, which makes its London debut this month – she’s been meeting the cast, quizzing them for their waist measurements and shopping for designer clothes in Harrod’s.
“My job’s certainly varied,” says Emma, who started her career as a dresser, before becoming an assistant wardrobe manager, then a deputy manager. “I’m self-employed, as most wardrobe managers are, and I’m usually hired for the duration of a show by the theatre company or the show’s designer, depending on how the production’s being run and funded.
“At the moment I’m working for the Ambassador Theatre Group on The Spoils, which stars Jesse Eisenberg. The show has just finished its Broadway run, but we’ve had to make lots of tweaks to the casts’ outfits. There are two new cast members, for a start, and a lot of the clothes worn during the US run were looking a bit tired. The play’s based around a group of young men and women who have lots of money, so I’ve had to go shopping for designer outfits. I spent so much money in Harrod’s I was offered a glass of champagne!
“It’s my job to shop for clothes, tailor them to fit the cast and make running repairs and alterations throughout the show’s run. In The Spoils the lead character (who’s played by Jesse) smokes a lot, and the ash marks his top. To make sure he always looks good I’ve ordered 20 of the same T-shirt.
“I’ve worked on some huge productions over the past few years, including last year’s run of American Buffalo at the Wyndham’s Theatre – starring Damian Lewis and John Goodman – and Impossible at the Noel Coward Theatre, which features the world’s best illusionists. Derren Brown was a consultant on the show and I met him a few times backstage. He was very quiet and polite, but I was scared to chat to him in case I ended up clucking like a chicken!” [The show returns to the Noel Coward Theatre this summer, from July 8 to August 27, see impossiblelive.com]
As the theatre throws everyone together so intensely for several months at a time, both the cast and the backstage crew get to know each other well. “Many of the actors I’ve worked with over the years have since become friends,” says Emma. “I’ve loved working with David Suchet on several productions, including All My Sons, as well as Nigel Havers.”
So does she ever get time to sit in the audience of a West End show? “No!” comes the answer. “The hours are long and I’m always in the theatre, backstage, when everyone else is watching. Though I do get to see the run-throughs, so it’s not all bad!”
Get a taste of The Spoils
To book tickets for The Spoils (and see Emma’s Harrod’s shopping in the flesh), visit www.trafalgar-studios.co.uk/The-Spoils.html
The play tells the story of Ben – played by actor and writer Jesse Eisenberg – who, in a nutshell, nobody likes. He lives off his parents’ money, bullies everyone (including his roommate, Kalyan, who’s played by Kunal Nayyar), and is determined to win back his grade school crush, who is all set to marry someone else. The comedy has enjoyed a successful run in Broadway, and this month marks its London debut. It’s booking until August 13, 2016 at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall.