Early summer got very intense as I became more and more involved in the production my son was in at the local theatre, a new musical about World War I called Sam & Isla Forever. My involvement began when I lent some Edwardian clothes for use in the production -- as advance publicity, and to start to make a record of my mini collection of antique clothing, we arranged a photo shoot with some of the girls from the play:
"Isla" (Photo ⓒ Opuscule Photographic)
One of the scenes from the "home front" takes place on the beach and we felt that all those dark skirts were just a little too sombre for four rather flighty young women, but most of the budget for the production was, we knew, reserved for providing the soldiers with authentic uniforms and guns (and very effective they proved!) So one person volunteered some material and I volunteered to make skirts. Which was all very well until I dug my sewing machine out and discovered some crucial bits seemed to be missing! Happily the provider of the material also offered use of her machine if necessary. Two of the skirts travelled all the way to Devon with me so that I could bast them together completely to save time machining -- on my return I spent one long sunny afternoon completing all but the hemming stage and another in the depths of the theatre doing some final fittings. Two skirts and three belts down, and only one left to make for the heroine, Isla, and, by this time, about 10 days to opening night! Our costume director had rejected the first length of material for Isla's skirt because she wanted her to have a mauve theme throughout, but I sourced some lovely plum-coloured cotton on eBay which very obligingly turned up within two days. I'd designed a skirt based on the suit I'd loaned for Isla to wear as a widow:
By this time I'd got my own machine working -- to my delight because I'd forgotten how much I enjoy sewing! Isla's skirt was finished over the weekend before the first dress rehearsal, by which time I'd also remembered how much I enjoy being in theatres, so I'd volunteered to dress at least one performance as well - in the event I did all but the last night, when I watched from out front, which was great because I finally got to see how it all looked.
The Sam & Isla girls in rehearsal. (Photo ⓒ Opuscule Photographic)
The play itself, by the way, described by its author Robert Wilkinson as a "kind of fable" was wonderful -- at times funny, at others intensely moving. Audience members were heard sobbing, and my son, who played the incompetent, doing-it-by-the-rules captain, reckoned that the sooner he grew his beard back the better (all the soldiers had WWI haircuts). The action was framed by a campaign in the 70s to have the 306 soldiers who were shot for "cowardice" posthumously pardoned, something that actually only happened in 2007. Seeing the young cast in their uniforms really brought home the horror of that time, and the tragedy of those executions of young men, most of them probably suffering from shell-shock, and some of them only 17.