More mannequin antics at Essex Fire Museum

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Mannequin man

 More mannequin antics at Essex Fire Museum

mannequin man - published 30/11/-0001 (updated 24/10/2018)

On Wednesday I went down to the Essex Fire Museum again as the museum had organised some more family days during the Easter break. We'd concluded, from my previous visits, that the WWII section got the most interest, so I would be reprising my role as the ARP warden, and taking the current mannequin's place again.

I needed to be ready and in position for for 9:40 am, so I got up early and decided to put some of my make-up on at home to reduce the time it would take at the museum. The areas that take the time are the eyebrows, as they need quite a lot of latex, and therefore time to dry, and fitting the bald cap. The bald caps I make myself, and I have quite a few now; some of them have worked better than others.

The first thing I had to do was mix up the latex. I normally use a Kryolan flesh 4W liquid latex make-up, but this is too dark in this instance, as most of the mannequins in the museum are very pale pink or white. I get round this by  mixing in a bit of white latex; Unfortunately this make the latex a bit too runny and harder to apply, and I can't seem to find a thicker white latex.

I then worked on my eyebrows, not forgetting to put Vaseline on them first (that's a good way to lose them). After this I fitted the bald cap. I use a bald cap because none of the mannequins at the museum have wigs, and this allows me to blend in. I then applied some more latex around my ears and at the join of the bald cap. After the latex make-up had completely dried, I was ready to go, but I then had to find something to wear on my head to cover up the make-up, as I needed to drive to the Museum, which is about 25 minutes away, so I found myself a woolly hat, pulled right over my ears so that no one would notice the bald cap and make-up, finishing off the ensemble with some dark sunglasses.

There was quite a bit of traffic on the A13, so I arrived a few minutes after 9:00, which only gave me about 40 mins to apply the rest of the make-up, get into the ARP mannequin's uniform, and get into position. It was a chilly day, so I quickly made my way to the changing area. Then, while the ARP mannequin was being undressed and removed, I finished applying the rest of the latex make-up; When this was fully dried, I highlighted my cheeks and lips with some red make-up to get that realistic mannequin effect.

It was now 9:40 and the first visitors for the tour were starting to arrive. I had to wait until they had moved out of sight, so that I could get into place without being seen. I was going to be standing in a slightly different place this time. On previous occasions, I was standing in the corner which meant I had to climb over a box to get into place; this proved to be difficult sometimes, especially if I wanted to get into position quickly. The new position is more exposed, which will make it harder for me not to be detected, as this position can be seen more clearly from more angles. When the opportunity struck I took my position in the WWII scene with the other mannequins.

The tour had been going for about 30 minutes, and I had been standing still for that long, with very little opportunity to move. The the tour finally arrived at the section I was in and the guide started talking about the incendiary bombs end

I was really pleased that no one had sussed even though they had all been looking directly at me. The guide them came round and stood in front of me and stated explaining about the WWII  wardens and...

He then asked one of the children to come round because he said he thought one of the mannequins might be real I took this as my cue to suddenly come alive with a big "boo" which went down really well.

For the afternoon session, I decided that rather than using the mass reveal, I waited until the visitors started looking round the museum on their own. When they went past, I stated waiving, pretended that someone was pulling the mannequin's arm with fishing wire, mimicking some of the tricks played on the youngsters earlier on in the tour, where toy baby Easter chicks were appearing using the same technique.

This proved to work really well, although harder for me, as I had to stay still for longer. On seeing the mannequin waving, the parents would initially say "Look, the mannequins waving at you", after a few more waves I would smile, and then the parents and children would look puzzled, eventually catching on to what was going on, and then saying. "Have you been there all this time?", "But I was looking straight at you earlier on, I didn't realise because you didn't move at all!"    

This was a very tough day, having to keep totally still for so long, without blinking, was a stretch, but it was also immensely satisfying.

See event pictures More mannequin antics at Essex Fire Museum

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