Press & PR Officer Mandy Rose went to London this week to meet Hugh Durrant, the man who will be bringing Hollywood glamour to Birmingham this Christmas. She writes about her chat with Hugh.
On one of the coldest days of the year, and a clash with a tube strike, I took a very slow taxi across London to meet the man who has the job of designing Joan Collins’ costumes for her first ever role in a stage panto.
I entered through a big oak door and climbed up some very tiny stairs, at the top I was greeted by Hugh Durrant the Emmy Award winning designer who has worked with some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry.
He shook my hand and waved me into a room full of designs, files, scissors, braid and one amazing purple sequinned dress with lots of feathers – Queen Rat’s costume! “Joan’s costume is not quite ready” he said “I shall be seeing her next week for a final costume fitting but as you can see it’s coming on really well and will look amazing on her. She’s great to work with really professional.”
Hugh has designed costumes for many of the Hippodrome panto’s; he recently designed the costumes for John Barrowman in Aladdin. But where does he get his ideas from? “You have to fit the design with the actor and the character and what they like to wear. For instance, when I designed Cher’s costumes for her Farewell Tour I added lots of beads which I knew she liked, I was delighted when she she said she loved the design and asked for more to be added!”
Joan Collins will have three costume changes in Dick Whittington, including a glamorous black and green dress which matches the colour of King Rat, played by Nigel Havers. Hugh told me that he hadn’t met Nigel yet but from measurements the designs are ready and waiting for costume fittings.
Hugh used to be Head of Design at Birmingham Rep. He originally trained as an actor alongside Harry Potter star Alan Rickman. “When I used to audition, Alan always used to get the part. I knew I was doing something wrong but I wanted to stay in theatre and I was really good at drawing so I went into design.”
Hugh is an amazing artist. The original drawings of Joan’s costumes are beautiful and he tells me that he has boxes full of designs from all sorts of productions and for many well known stars. He has worked with stars such as Hugh Grant and Hollywood great Vivien Leigh for instance.
Apparently London was full of shops where he would buy his fabric but only few such places remain and most of the material is now bought online. “Costumes are very expensive and you have to make them last but with wear and tear, actors sweating, packing for tours … they can wear very quickly so you have to look after them, steam and press where we can, replace buttons etc.” The most expensive show Hugh worked on was the London production of Babes in the Wood in 1985 starring Cannon and Ball, Barbara Windsor and a host of big star names. He tells me that it was very hard work with lots of costume maintenance but well worth it.
Is there a favourite costume? “No not really but I do like costumes that introduce fantasy and magic to the audience and there’s a great reaction when an actor makes an entrance.”
Hugh kindly lets me see Joan’s finale costume. A stunning white gown with white feathers. Whilst still work in progress, he lets me feel the fabric and shows me where the red sash will go but one thing he refuses to divulge is Joan’s measurements! “I can’t give you that” he laughs. Glancing back at the purple dress I have to say, Hugh will definitely be bringing a bit of Hollywood glamour to Birmingham over the Christmas season, Joan will look breathtaking and will certainly get a reaction from Hippodrome audiences!
It’s been a busy year for Hugh, as well as theatre he’s designed 8 shows for Cundard’s luxury liner The Queen Elizabeth. Next week he’ll be arriving at Birmingham Hippodrome with the hat and wig maker to meet the cast for fittings and stay for technical and dress rehearsals. So what will he be doing at Christmas? “Putting my feet up and having a really good rest!”
(By the way during my chat with Hugh I actually held the Emmy Award he won in 2002 for Cher’s Farewell Tour!).
Dick Whittington stars Joan Collins with Julian Clary, Nigel Havers, Keith Harris, Orville, Cuddles and Jeffrey Holland. It opens on 18 December and runs until end of January. www.birminghamhippodrome.com
More images on picture gallery via Flickr go to Birmingham Hippodrome
Video footage of the visit can be found by going to the Express & Star online
Follow Mandy Rose on twitter: @mandyrose1