Styling the Tsotsi musical stars

Wardrobe manager Rabia Davids, 42, from Westridge, brings the story of Tsotsi to life, one costume at a time.

Talking to the wardrobe manager of Tsotsi, the Musical was a tough feat but seeing her interact with the cast about their shoes, clothes, headdress, jewelry and dance movements spoke volumes about her passion to dress.

“Ek is nie een vir baie praat nie,” Rabia Davids, 42, from Westridge, told the Plainsman in a room at Cape Town Opera’s offices last Wednesday.

Within a month of reading the script, Ms Davids, has consulted with co-directors Neil Coppen and Khayelihle Dominique Gumede; and costume designer Thando Lobese on how best to style the cast. She said they have sourced contemporary outfits for the cast of 20, in the kwaito-music stage production based on Athol Fugard’s novel.

“The designer will show me pictures, of what she envisions for the production and the director will say we are doing the production in this period,” she said. “I compile everything and whatever was designed comes to life,” said Ms Davids.

Her job involves supervising the purchasing and sourcing of garments, maintenance of dresses, ironing, fitting, adjusting, labelling and dying outfits for characters and any dramatic effects affecting the clothes.

Across from where we were conducting our interview, a rehearsal was taking place, and afterward the Plainsman was privy to what goes on behind the scenes, with actors asking Ms Davids for shoes, a more glamorous dress, noting that something was “too dowdy”, they needed a “red tie”, or asking “what can I put on my head?”

Quickly, Ms Davids allayed their fears and made suggestions, which would keep the actor, the director and the designer happy.

Ms Davids has more than 14 years of experience and on the job training, which started in 2004, when her then mother-in-law Shamiela Ederies, from Eastridge, advised her about interviews at Artscape Theatre.

Ms Ederies was then wardrobe assistant to Anne Holmes, who was then called the “dress mistress”, known today as the wardrobe manager.

Ms Davids can create a style for any character, with their distinct colour palette and costume design.

“You learn on the job,” she said.

When Ms Davids started in this line of work, her job entailed darning garments, ironing and styling costumes, under the instruction of Ms Holmes. It is her job to follow-up on notes made during rehearsals and make provisions for props, according to the production’s size and funding.

The first production she worked on was Phantom of the Opera in 2004, with a cast of 60 members.

She then worked on Lion King, when she was enthralled with characters’ headdresses.

Ms Davids progressed to being a “swing dresser”, who could work anywhere. She has been employed full-time by Cape Town Opera for the past eight years, during which she has travelled to France for the production of Porgy and Bess in 2015; to Germany for the production of Mandela in the same year; to Spain Madrid and six cities in the United Kingdom in 2016 and Italy for the story of former president Nelson Mandela.

She worked with the production teams of Pieter Toerien on Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Beauty and the Beast.

In 2006 she toured with Lion King to Taipei.

“In this job I’ve been able to meet people and go places,” she said.

Ms Davids said she and her wardrobe team, along with make-up and stylists must be punctual and always be prepared for the arrival of the actors.

“You must have people skills. You must be humble and have lots of patience,” she said.

Ms Davids advised: “Nothing personal. The job needs to be done.”

Tsotsi, the Musical will be on show at Artscape Theatre from Thursday February 8 until Sunday February 18. Tickets range from R125 to R280.