Girding the dozen…

Nov 8 2016 | By More

The #TwoCitiesDozen get kitted and fitted

As the Touring Consortium Theatre Company production of A Tale of Two Cities opens at the King’s Theatre tonight, Æ reader Suzanne Senior talks about the process leading up to opening night.

Suzanne is one of a dozen Edinburgh-based amateur performers who are taking part in this professional touring production. Details of Edinburgh’s #TwoCitiesDozen, as they are known, are on the Theatre Cloud website.

Stage rehearsal. Pic Suzanne Senior

Stage rehearsal. Pic Suzanne Senior

But for the moment Suzanne goes backstage – and enters the King’s not through the main door, or the box office, but down the alley to the side. Via that portal to theatrical dreams: Stage Door.

Costumes, an introduction to scenery and props – and more.

Today I arrived at the theatre and entered by the stage door! My dressing room (well not all mine) was several steep flights of steps up and by the time I reached it, I was beginning to wish it was lower down!

One of the other cast members directed me towards my costume, set out neatly on three hangers with my name on. She explained that the white, voluminous garment resembling an oversized nightdress was only the underslip, and that there would be two skirts, thigh-length socks, a bodice and a “bum roll” to add in different stages.

It was all very confusing, especially the “bum roll”, a stuffed half-moon which was to be attached in between layers. The underskirt was tight at the waist, with minimal room for food, and then a very full, heavy beige skirt was fitted on top. With the “nightdress” tucked in, it certainly wasn’t a very flattering look!

The costume woman then took over and explained cheerfully that I wouldn’t need a corset as they were all too small. Instead I was to have a cream boned waistcoat, which proved even more difficult to squeeze into. She pulled and tugged and laced, all with impeccable patience, until it was secured tightly. Unfortunately I couldn’t breathe so she kindly loosened the laces and let out the skirt waist.


This was in pleasant contrast to the last time I had to wear a corset – as an extra in the BBC production of Daniel Deronda – where the costume girl pulled the fastenings so tight I thought I would pass out. When I told her, she replied caustically: “Well if you can’t wear a corset, you shouldn’t be doing period drama!”. For this reason, I had been dreading the costume fitting, so was very relieved that it was a much less traumatic experience.

Rehearsing the "Wine Shop" Scene. Photo: Suzanne Senior

Rehearsing the “Wine Shop” Scene. Photo: Suzanne Senior

Costumes done, we were then directed to the stage where Neale, the Associate Producer, walked us through the set. He explained the technicalities of some of the apparatus, all of which seemed very complicated. I was very impressed with the amount of work which goes into making sure every aspect backstage is just right. I have, of course, experienced this in other productions, but on a much smaller scale. With a cast of thirteen principals and twelve community participants, including several costume and scene changes, it provides huge logistical challenges, especially as each new venue is different.

We were then taken through all the scenes we had rehearsed in the rehearsal room, this time in situ with props. It all seemed very different, and again, confusing. I made mental notes not to bang my head on the stage light or trip up over any of the fittings.

We rehearsed each scene with the music score played over the loud-speaker and I found it a thrilling experience. The score, by film composer, Rachel Portman, is beautiful and atmospheric, and really brings the scenes to life. It also helped us to get right into the mood of each scene.

There is a lot to remember though, and after only three rehearsals, I’m concerned I might forget a reaction or movement, or rely too much on the others for cues. With this in mind, Neale gave us a recap session of each scene before we left. By then, however, I was feeling tired and in need of a good rest before the busy day ahead.

I’m very excited about tomorrow, although it will be a long day. We have a cast call at 1pm, a dress rehearsal in the afternoon, followed by the opening performance in the evening. It is all a bit of a whirlwind, but a very enjoyable and satisfying one.
© Suzanne Senior November 2017

We hope to carry more tales from behind the scenes of the show later in the week, as Suzanne gets to go out onto the King’s stage in front of a paying audience.


A Tale of Two Cities
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.
Tuesday 8 – Saturday 12 November 2016
Daily: 7.30pm; Matinee Wed and Sat 19: 2.30pm.
Details and tickets from:

Suzanne’s first blog is here: Two Cities Twelve.



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