Stage all set for Charmain

Photo Neil Cross
Charmain Billing of Fleetwood has been shortlisted in a nationwide costume design competition connected to West End show, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Photo Neil Cross Charmain Billing of Fleetwood has been shortlisted in a nationwide costume design competition connected to West End show, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
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It’s not every day you get asked to draw costume ideas for the main character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but that’s what happened to Fleetwood student Charmain Billing.

The 20 year old budding theatre costume designer made the shortlist of the Imagination Awards, a competition launched through the award-winning West End production of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s tale.

Photo Neil Cross
Charmain Billing of Fleetwood has been shortlisted in a nationwide costume design competition connected to West End show, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Photo Neil Cross Charmain Billing of Fleetwood has been shortlisted in a nationwide costume design competition connected to West End show, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Unusually, it is aimed at encouraging creativity among two rather different groups of young people - young inventors aged five to 15 and would-be theatre designers aged 13-21.

And Charmain’s ideas for costume designs certainly captured the imagination of those involved, beating dozens of others to make the shortlist.

Charmain, of Golbourne Close, Fleetwood, who is a student at the Blackpool and Fylde College’s University Centre, said: “I am studying for a BA in fashion and costume for performance and I found out about this competition through a friend. I couldn’t believe it when I made the shortlist. Obviously I would love to work professionally for the theatre so to get that recognition was really encouraging.”

Chairmain’s entry was eye-catching - participants were asked to come up with original ideas for stage sets or costumes that might be featured in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory production.

Her costume ideas featured striking ideas of how young hero Charlie Bucket would be dressed.

Charmain, a former pupil of Fleetwood High School, added: “We were told about where Charlie lived so I thought about it and drew some designs for chunky scarves, a woolly hat and un-hemmed trousers and they seemed to like them. I’ve always been interested in design and fashion but when I heard about theatre costumes I decided to go in that direction.”

Entries came from all across the UK in many different forms, including pictures, stories, and even short films. Charmain just missed out on winning the competition.

The awards judging panel included members of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory creative team.

The musical show, still playing to packed audiences at the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, is directed by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes and includes Accrington-born stage actor Jonathan Slinger as eccentric factory boss Willy Wonka.