INTERVIEW with STAGE BABIES

Here's a short interview with Sophie Clayton who runs “Stage Babies”.

 

Firstly, who are you and what do you do?!

My background is in technical theatre and technical effects. And my business partner is a set and costume designer that also works in wardrobe. I’m fabricator and prop/puppet maker. We’re ideal partners really – we’ve known each other for about five years – worked together loads and set up STAGE BABIES about 3 years ago

So what is STAGE BABIES?

We hire reproduction babies and fake pregnancy bumps to the theatre and film industry. All the repro babies have specifically weighted limbs so 'lull' in a realistic way and the bumps are weighted too. It makes the way people interact with them really believable. The babies also have hair that’s been individually hair punched (which is when you insert a small needle into the plastic skull of the repro baby each time passing a strand of hair through and into the plastic)

We have a fairly large selection of repro babies – different sizes, ages, skin tones etc. And we have a few different types of bumps. Ones that are easy to get on in a quick change, ones that have detachable pieces to make the bump get bigger etc etc. We also do bespoke alterations. Recently a film company contacted us because they needed a replicable baby for a scene where a child was choking and needed to be hit hard on the back. They sent us a picture of the child actor and we altered a repro baby to look the same.

 

They must look really realistic then if they are used in film!

What we say is that nothing compares to the real thing. There are limitations – especially as we want to remain affordable. To make a repro baby that would stand up to close film shots like something off ‘Call the Midwife’ would cost into the thousands. But because ours are well weighted and if they are covered so you only see a hand or the top of the head it is very difficult to determine if it’s real or not. The thing is in theatre the audience know it’s not a real baby onstage. And so we’re not trying to convince them it’s real. We’re trying to make the audience accept that it’s real in the context of the play. So yes they’ll know it’s not real but hopefully they won’t be thinking, “that’s a terrible fake looking baby” and instead be focusing on what’s actually happening in the play.

 

And why did you set it up?

We both said that one of the most annoying things onstage was a poor prop baby. My business partner told me this story about when she was working on a fringe show a few years ago and it was really tough job and everyone had been working crazy hours. And she was listening to the audience chat in the toilets after the first preview, and all they were speaking about was the prop baby that was seen for about four seconds at the end of the show. The show was so good but all people were focused on was this prop. It was such a shame that the production was let down by that tiny thing - that that was what they took away from two hours of great theatre. Four seconds of a poor prop!

 

I don’t know what it is but fake babies onstage always draw the attention of people in the audience - maybe it's a human instinct thing. So we set up this hire business to fill a gap in the market and quickly realised there was a demand for it. So we also diversified into hiring baby bumps too. 

What does it cost to hire a reproduction baby?

The main reason we set up this project was for fringe productions where budgets are small. So to hire a repro baby costs from £10 a week depending on the specific model. We do discounts for long hires and we do educational and fringe discounts too. We’d rather our stock be used. The cost of delivery can be high because of the weight, but we always try and make it as cheap as possible. If we’re going into London anyway we’ll offer to drop it off for example. This definitely isn’t a get rich quick scheme! We run this in our spare time around our freelance work and it’s also been a great networking opportunity for us.

Where are you based?

London and Essex but we normally post them

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So how do we contact you?

You can email us on enquiries@stagebabies.co.uk.

Visit our website at www.stagebabies.co.uk

We’re on Facebook and Instagram too of course!

And click here for Sophie's work insta too!

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Ragtime @ Charing Cross Theatre 2016

Photography by Annabel Vere and Scott Rylander