Ever wondered how we make wigs for the stage? Find out with some of the trade secrets behind the heroic hair in Troilus and Cressida.

We use 17 different wigs and hair pieces in our current production of Troilus and Cressida, each made with painstaking care by our Wigs and Make-Up Department. But what goes into creating these vital costume pieces?

Choosing a wig style

Before the wigs can be made, they have to be designed appropriately for the show and character. The designer of the show - in this case, Niki Turner - gives the team a selection of references to help them understand the world of the production. They use this to inform the style of the wigs created for each character.

Making a whole wig from scratch then takes a full week of work, around 40 hours altogether. Rather than having one person sit and make each wig individually, team members find an hour here and there to add to the piece in between their other tasks.

Achilles' heroic hair

The Achilles wig has been knotted using 18-inch blonde European hair, with 2-3 hairpieces at the back and one at the front. Additional wefts or hair extensions were added to the back of the wig to give it more weight and help it hang heavier.

As the hair is human, it reacts like a normal head of hair would to washing and styling. In preparation for performance, the wig artists drench the hair with water and run it through with hair oil from root to tip to create the right look for the show and character. For Achilles, the wig is allowed to dry naturally to give it a slight curl.

The team also darkened the roots of the wig to give it a more natural look and to make the ends of each hair look more sun-kissed.

Keeping wigs in place

When the actors are getting into costume, their hair is gripped back and a stocking cap put on to flatten their hair and hold the wig in place. Fine pins attach the wig to the head, anchored in to the grips to ensure that it stays in place throughout even the most active performance.

Members of the team often have to be close to the stage during performances to touch up make up or adjust a hairstyle during a quick costume change.

Once the production has finished, the wigs will be labelled and boxed up according to length and colour so that they can be used again in future shows.