Dannevirke: Wardrobe mistress puts her heart into work

By Christine McKay

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Wardrobe assistant Shirley Omundsen (left), wardrobe mistress Joy Murdoch, cast member Marama Stretch and wardrobe assistant Diane St Merat. Photo / Christine McKay
Wardrobe assistant Shirley Omundsen (left), wardrobe mistress Joy Murdoch, cast member Marama Stretch and wardrobe assistant Diane St Merat. Photo / Christine McKay

Joy Murdoch's love of theatre has blossomed since 1970 when she found the love of her life while treading the boards in Desert Song.

Joy is the wardrobe mistress for the Dannevirke Theatre Company's upcoming production of Chess, but the theatre holds a special place in her heart - it's there in 1970 where she met husband Dave when they were both appearing in Desert Song.

And while Dannevirke's Joy loves being part of the backstage team for Chess, it seems Dave is also part of the team, as well as being on stage.

It's often down to Joy, on road trips with Dave, to find hidden gems in second-hand shops around the country.

"Dave is very long-suffering and known for spending a long time in second-hand shops looking for stuff," wardrobe assistant Diane St Merat said.

But not everything discovered is fit for purpose.

"We were after orange shirts and hunted high and low, but finally Joy had to resort to getting white shirts and dying them orange. There are still vestiges of orange left at home," Dave said. "While looking for elusive white walk socks in Whanganui, one shop owner said we should come back again on Monday because he had five pairs at home."

Chess is an exciting production for Joy and her team of Diane and Shirley Omundsen.

"Joy is a wonderful organiser and she's got a great sense of design," Diane said. "She refuses to let anything go and she hides stuff."

Hiding that stuff means Joy and her team are able to recycle costumes, saving the theatre company money.

"What were dogs' heads, designed by Pat Herbert for the King and I are now horses' heads in Chess," Joy said.

And late night, last minute creations from bottles and Christmas decorations for the King and I are reappearing as headwear for cast members Ruth Peters and Julie Davis in the One Night in Bangkok scene in Chess.

The costumes bring the production to life and for Chess Joy has even spent eight hours making the bras for the dancers in One Night in Bangkok.

While Joy is the creative genius behind the costumes, resorting to Google to research Tyrolean costumes for Chess, Diane and Shirley have been kept busy too. "I've been busy making braces and ties and I do all the straight bits, but Shirley does all the zips and the letting out and taking in," Diane said.

Joy knows every seam and stitch in the costumes and has been involved with productions from Fiddler on the Roof, Oliver, Joseph and the Technicolour Dream Coat and Les Miserables. She helped with costumes and was on stage in the Sound of Music and Annie.

"I first started working in the wardrobe when my children were at Dannevirke High School and they wanted someone to help out with the costumes," she said.

Joy also stepped up to help the high school with costumes for the high school's recent production of Grease.

On Tuesday Joy was faced with the huge logistical nightmare of getting all the costumes to the Town Hall from the Fountain Theatre and even when Chess opens on Friday, April 15, her work won't stop. There will be the costume changes, some taking just a matter of seconds and all that washing.

"She loves it," Dave said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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