Today we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of a tour for class, the surprise being it was a tour for Steven, not Andrew. The bad news was that it happened on a Wednesday, which is usually our free day of the week. The good news was that we were scheduled to meet only from 10:30am till around noon, which meant that we had the rest of the day free to relax and explore the city.
The exhibit was quite interesting, since it talked about different aspects of a successful theatre – both production and the building itself. The entrance contained a life-size figure of Joey, the main character in War Horse.
The first section that drew my eye was the Vivien Leigh Archive, especially the photos of the movie posters. The glass display even contained a couple of letters written by Ms. Leigh, and the famous photo of her with Laurence Olivier in Anthony and Cleopatra.
Then we moved on to the Stage and Effects section of the exhibit, which contained information on the actual props used during Shakespeare’s time. For example the Pit Door was the cheapest seats available for audience members to watch a production, while the Star Trap was the original trapdoor. The harness (first used in the original Peter Pan) looked pretty uncomfortable though.
Next was the section on stage and scenery, which contained the actual masks from the play The Oresteia. Designed by Jocelyn Herbert and directed by Peter Hall, the masks actually mimic what props would have looked like during Antiquity. It is interesting that only Cassandra’s mask has ‘eyes’, thereby rendering the actor ‘blind’ – in the story she is the seer whose warnings are ignored by the people, making her ‘sight’ useless.
Following that, the exhibition also displayed famous costumes from a combination of Shakespeare plays (such as Henry V) and non-Shakespearean performances, such as the costumes of Scar and Sarabi in The Lion King. The actual drawing design for the bejeweled headdress and wig was also on display, used by Vivien Leigh in the movie Caesar and Cleopatra. Not just theatrical performance costumes were exhibited though – the wardrobe of famous musicians on tour were also prominently featured, such as the costume of Chris Martin during Coldplay’s 2008 Viva La Vida tour.
The display also contained numerous posters and tour banners of famous British bands such as the Beatles and Queen. Each gallery display contained a short paragraph of information on the items, such as “Creating”, or “Costume and Makeup” – a way to section off the large exhibition into smaller divisions. We actually got to see the costume of Joey from War Horse up close, which was pretty cool!
Finally, on the way out of the exhibit we passed by the National Art Library – apparently a good place to visit if we planned on writing our final papers on anything concerning works of art. If I have time to come back, I definitely plan on spending at least a couple of hours in there!