STEVE PRATT searches for some costume drama in the wardrobe department of York Theatre Royal’s community play The Coppergate Woman

The Great Viking Sewing Bee is in full swing. Jessica is on her hands and knees on the floor measuring a large piece of fabric. Anna is making Viking shoes. Michelle is at a sewing machine.

Even before rehearsals for York Theatre Royal ‘s community play The Coppergate Woman started, costume designer Hazel Jupp and a team of wardrobe volunteers began making the 150 costumes needed for the 100-strong cast.

Outfits for 11 Norse Gods, 60 Norns (the fates), a 15-strong modern-day chorus and six main characters in a story that sees Vikings on a mission in modern-day York.

Costumes are made from scratch. It’s not a case of finding outfits in the costume store. Wherever possible, locally produced fabrics are used. Even recycled towels have a role to play - replacing environmentally-unfriendly disposable wipes to remove make-up.

York Press:

All costumes for The Coppergate Woman are being made from scratch

Wardrobe deputy Janet Hull, who has made many a pantomime dame’s colourful costume in the past, has researched the Viking look. Norns, for instance, will wear “a simple shape garment, natural colours, washed out look, loosely Viking in origin”. Hats or caps will conceal modern-day haircuts. York hair and make-up students will create a white face make-up look to give the Norns an otherworldly appearance.

Two dozen volunteers work in the wardrobe department, based in the theatre’s former rehearsal space at De Grey Rooms. JOBS LIST says one notice. ‘Mood’ boards on the wall shows pictures and suggestions for design.

Some volunteers have worked on past community productions, others are first-timers. Some are more skilled or quicker than others. One volunteer, who has worked in a clothing factory, produced an impressive three pairs of trousers in two hours.

York Press:

Making clothes fit for a Viking (or Viking God)...

Anna and Heather have been associated with several previous community shows. Newcomer Jessica, meanwhile, has been sewing since she was a youngster, but The Coppergate Woman is the first community play on which she’s worked. It’s a lot more fulfilling than odd jobs, like taking up curtains and putting in zips, that she’s been doing over the last year.

The word that keeps cropping up when you ask why they’ve volunteered is ‘fun’. They enjoy sewing - and the chance to make things they’d never otherwise make, such as clothes for for Gods and shoes (plimsoles covered in cloth and leather) for Norns...

The Coppergate Woman is at York Theatre Royal from July 30 to August 6.