"This is Your Half-Hour Call" - David Tate and Matilda the Musical

For the past seven years, and continuing, I have heard this announcement echo throughout the backstage area of the old brick walls of one of the West End's most famous landmark theatres, the 89-year-old Cambridge Theatre, situated at the cross angle of what has become more familiarly known as The Seven Dials, nestled within the ever famous Covent Garden.

For those seven years, the Cambridge Theatre has been the home to one of its most successful productions, which still runs to packed houses: Matilda the Musical, the musical play based on Roald Dahl's much-loved story Matilda. Today I enter into another year, along with a new team of actors and children, three of which shall become the show's new Matildas, and who, for the past six weeks, have been rehearsing into their new characters ready to change places with their present counterparts. 

What is my job? I am one of eight dressers employed to assist the show's performers, each of us being assigned to usually more than one actor/performer, as in my case I dress four members of the male ensemble, and a lot of fun it is! There are many rewarding reasons for working as a dresser in theatre. You really are part of the show, even though you never, for the most part, have to appear on stage in front of the audience. Everyone working backstage, and the performers working on stage, become like a family. It really does help to have a good sense of humour as that is always in abundance, before, during, and after the show. Actors and entertainers must be allowed to be themselves, as in that they exude in being funny and entertaining. So there is rarely ever a dull moment! This is the case even when mistakes are made, as I recall one time during a performance. As I have mentioned, it is part of my job to look after four members of the male ensemble. Approaching the end of the show, when many cast members rush off stage to quickly change out of costume and straight into their closing costume, this is a very quick change so there's no room for mistakes. There I am ready and waiting in the wings for when one of the male ensemble members comes rushing off and proceeds to strip almost naked, while I help him, as quickly as I can, into his closing costume ready for him to rush back on stage for the show's finale. As he returned back onto the stage with the rest of the cast, it was only then that I realised that I had placed two left shoes on his feet. Luckily the audience would have never known, but he did!

There are eight shows a week, and, while the audience members excitingly make their way to their seats, behind the scenes a massive team of a variety of skilled individuals have been busy for several hours before, working to make sure that on the dot of 7:30 each evening the curtain goes up on time. From wigs, wardrobe, lighting, props, stage management, and crew, orchestra members, directors and assistants, a total of 68 skilled personnel come together for each show to bring you Matilda, the Musical!

Written by Matilda the Musical! cast dresser David Tate

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