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Tony Glynn chats to Sam Cox, wig maker for the cast of Sleeping Beauty

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: December 26, 2013

  • WIG IT UP: Dame Nellie Night Nurse (Antony Stuart-Hicks) sports a variety of wigs by Sam Cox. Pictures: Andy Robinson of J&A Cameras + Photography, www.jandacameras.co.uk.

  • WIG MAKER: Sam Cox.

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WHEN the curtain comes up at any given pantomime, the audience don't expect to see the sort of people you would find at the local bus stop.

They expect larger-than-life characters who fill the stage with fantabulous costumes, booming voices and – this is where Sam Cox comes in – big hair. Could we have a dame without a big mane?

Sam can be credited with having made the wigs for this year's panto Sleeping Beauty, which runs at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple until January 4.

Making wigs to order is no straightforward task, however, and Sam explained how he turns a mere mortal into a stage superhero.

"First of all there's a basic design based on the character," said Sam. "And then I get together with the actor to talk about what they want. With Antony Stuart-Hicks, who plays dame in this year's panto, for example, he had very specific ideas about how he wanted to look. Others don't care as much.

"Then I take a casting of the actor's head and make a foundation out of fine lace. I use all sorts of different hair once I start the process – even yaks' hair. This is great for 18th century-style wigs."

The painstaking process takes around 60 hours, so Sam must have plenty of patience. But with so many different heads to work with, each wig brings new challenges and triumphs, no doubt.

In the past he has made a wide variety of wigs – some bizarre, some not-so-bizarre – but one notable example was one he made for the English National Opera:

"The character I had to work on was a werewolf," said Sam. "Not that unusual, but I was asked to make a T-shirt of real human hair. That was a first for me!"

Sam, who now lives in London, is originally from Ilfracombe. He worked for Small Pond and Ash Productions (where he met Antony Stuart-Hicks), and began to teach himself the art of wig making when he was 15.

While still in North Devon he played a part in shows such as the Vicar Of Dibley, Aladdin and The Wizard Of Oz.

He was then introduced to wig master David Birt, and before long was making his way to London's West End.

Since 2010 he has plied his trade in a number of notable productions including Shrek The Musical at Drury Lane and Spamalot at the London Playhouse. Coming back to North Devon, and especially at Christmas, is a treat for Sam.

"It's great to see my family and friends at Christmas. I'm just so glad I'm involved with the panto."

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