Forces Sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn has sent warm good wishes to the Arundel Players as they stage Privates on Parade for the Arundel Festival.
Dame Vera, a long-time friend of show director Roger Redfarn, wrote to him just before the run began.
“What fun that you are directing a production of Privates on Parade for the Arundel Festival. I send you and the company my best wishes for your success. Memories of my own war-time experiences in Egypt, India and Burma as one of the first entertainers to visit the Far-East, are always with me.
“Particulary I remember the many young men and women who had never previously left their homes in this country, and suddenly found themselves transported into a totally-alien environment and also one of great danger.
“Most of them not only coped with the situations with courage, but also amazingly,retained a sense of humour. I still think of myself as having been privileged to act as a visible link between them and their loved ones at home. Once again, all my good wishes for an enjoyable and successful production.”
Performances run at Arundel’s Priory Playhouse from August 16-23, and once again Pat Moss has been in charge of costumes.
Think of the period pieces the Arundel Players have staged in recent times, and the chances are that you will be thinking of Pat’s handiwork.
Pat, who lives in Shoreham Beach, is the Players’ go-to girl whenever a sense of history is required.
“I have been a member of the Arundel Players since 1982 when I was involved in a big production of Oh, What A Lovely War at the time of the Falklands, and then I went into business making costumes to hire for companies all over the place and working with professional theatre companies. I trained as an actress way back, but I don’t go on the stage any more.
“With the Arundel Players for the last few years, when they need period costumes, I do them. We did Amadeus, and before that it was The Prince and the Showgirl. We also did Little Women and The Importance of being Earnest and The Rivals. I am not interested if they want to do something that is relatively modern. People can pick up their own costumes for that, but if there’s a period costume, it’s always me.”
Research is key to everything she does, says Pat, who admits she has long since lost count of the books relating to theatre and fashion in her bookcase.
“We do a massive amount of research. I get all the books out and spend ages going through them and picking out what I need. When you are doing period costumes, they have got to be spot on, and I make them so that they can be worn in real life. They are properly made.”
Pat reckons her favourite era would be the 18th century for all the material possibilities it offers: “I absolutely adore it. It is so gorgeous from the point of view of all the sorts of things that you can do. I was using velvets and brocades and heavy satins for Amadeus. It’s very specialised.
“But there is not a lot of money in it. When I sell the costume, I sell it at a give-away price. Nobody realises how much work goes into it, and it is not just the time spent making it. It is also the time spent trying to find the materials, and it is getting harder and harder to find the materials you need.
“I won’t ever buy them over the internet. I have got to go to the shops. You have got to feel the material. You have got to handle the material. I have to go all over the place trying to find it.”
For Privates on Parade, an additional challenge is making three drag costumes including Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. Pat provides costumes for a group of panto dames, but drag costumes are quite something different, she stresses.
“If you think of drag, you think of Danny la Rue and Lily Savage where it acts like a woman, but a panto dame is something very different because you have got to know all the time that it is a man inside the frock and that that’s the tradition.
“I have got a group of panto dames. They are all in their 30s and 40s. The first panto dame I worked with was Barry Howard. He is a lovely person to work with. He used to make all his own costumes, but the year I worked with him, a couple were not finished, and I had to finish them off.”
Tickets on www.arundelplayers.org.uk.