17th May 2021
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The Secret Diary Of A West End Wiggy

West End Wiggy
By Mel Brothwell

Ever wondered what a hair and wig person actually gets up to when working on a long running West End show? I can’t even begin to count the times a colleague working in the same building as myself has asked me why are we in so early? Or, what do you do with the wigs every day? So do you brush them and stuff? This made me think, if the people in the same building as me don’t know, what chance do the rest of you have? I thought I would give the world a little sneak peek into the secret world of a west end wiggy (as we are often known as).


On my current show School of Rock this is when my standard one show day begins. There are three full time members of our wig department. Jade and Hannah complete our little trio. When we all arrive we survey the damage from the show before. It can change daily with many different factors coming into play on how much work each wig will need. If a wig requires a wet set, blow dry or wash we will get on with these ones first.

Every single wig in the show requires some daily maintenance, each wig will get its lace cleaned and blocked to keep them in tiptop condition, then whatever else is needed to keep it looking as per the design. It can be anything from a blow dry or tong to heated rollers and brush through. We are very careful that to ensure that the designs don’t evolve over time and to help eliminate this we use something called a Wig Bible. The Wig Bible contains a photo of every wig in the show and what is needed to keep it just right for its character.

This time is often my favourite part of the day, it’s normally just the three of us with maybe a little visit from our Company Manager. So this is the time you all get to chat about last night’s show, personal stuff or just general chitchat. The rule is what’s said in the wig room stays in the wig room.


By this time we have done all the wigs, eaten dinner and had a little break. Now the cast start to arrive. They have warm up to attend to around this time but a couple of our cast members are required to have tattoos. We have two types, transfers which last around a week but for the less discreet parts of the body our actors aren’t so willing to walk around with rock tattoos all down their arms in real life (I don’t blame them!) so we stencil them on daily with tattoo ink which they can remove after the show.


We begin to prepare for the show, all the wigs will get unblocked and preset where we require them to be throughout the show.


The half hour call! We have two wig plots at School of Rock, one with the adult actors and one with our child actors. We all do both tracks but today I’m on the adults’ plot. This means I head to our principle ladies room to fit their wigs. I then head to our ensemble boys and put their rock band looks on, then it’s back to the wig room where our ladies of the ensemble come up to have their wigs done. All this happens in 30 mins, phew!!


The show begins. We start at the rock show so everyone is in their rock band looks. We then throughout the first act do quick changes into parents and teachers then back to rock again. It’s busy and there’s lots of running from the wings to the dressing rooms and quick change rooms. We have to make sure all the wigs end up in the right places for the next change and keep checking the actors between scenes to ensure that nothing has moved and they all look tidy.


The Interval, time for a tea and quick sit down? Think again; the interval is a busy time for us. Everyone is changing into their teacher looks and all the children need tidying.


Act two beginners, more of the same, quick changes and dashing round the building.


The shows ends. We remove and collect all the wigs. They all go back on their blocks (a head block that’s the same size as the actor) all ready for us to come in the next day when it all begins again!

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