The V&A has announced that several significant costumes including an iconic drag costume from the musical Kinky Boots (2012), Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw’smini dress and the UK’s first ballet pointe shoes for a variety of skin tones by Freed / Ballet Black have gone on display as part of a major refresh in the V&A Theatre and Performance Galleries, due for completion in late April 2022. With a rolling programme of new material on display each month, the refresh will introduce over 120 objects from the V&A’s Theatre and Performance collection into the galleries, the majority of which will be on display for the first time. World-leading, the V&A is home to the national collection of performing arts, documenting current practice and the history of all areas of performing arts in the UK.
Once completed, the galleries will bring together recent acquisitions and rare historic objects from the museum’s collection of theatre, film, music and dance as well as popular entertainment including circus, variety and pantomime. Showcasing costumes, set models, posters, photographs and original scripts, sketches and designs, the galleries will explore the creative process of performance from concept to production and beyond through brand new interpretation and interactives to enrich the displays.
Simon Sladen, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Performance at the V&A, said “We can’t wait to welcome visitors to our newly curated areas in the Theatre and Performance Galleries, which recently celebrated their tenth anniversary. From creative idea to opening night, over a third of objects and archival material destined for display are recent acquisitions. The galleries are testament to the creativity, innovation and ingenuity of the Performing Arts and celebrate the practice, process and history of performance throughout the UK and across the Globe.”
- The scarlet-red ensemble (complete with wig and thigh-high patent leather boots) worn by Lola in the award winning musical Kinky Boots (2012). The costume is mounted on a bespoke mannequin designed to fit the male performer’s proportions.
- A pair of the UK’s first skin tone pointe shoes for Black, Asian and dual-heritage dancers, by Freed of London in collaboration with Ballet Black, worn by Cira Robinson as Tituba in Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible (2019).
- A winged costume for Garuda (1950s) designed and worn by pioneering Indian dancer, choreographer and producer Ram Gopal.
- An ensemble worn by actor and manager Henry Irving in the role of Mephistopheles in the Lyceum Company production of Faust (1885). The costume, on display at the V&A for the first time, utilises an early example of pyrotechnic technology.
- The pink mini dress worn by singer Sandie Shaw the ‘barefoot pop princess’ during her performance of ‘Puppet on a String’ at the Eurovision song contest in 1967, the first ever Eurovision win for the UK.
- An intricate dance costume made of colourful West African ‘Ankara’ print fabric designed for a performance of the Adzogbo in the Adzido Pan African Dance Ensemble production Sankofa (2000).
- The Olivier award winning showgirl costume for Young Solange inspired by the Folies Bergère designed by Vicki Mortimer for the National Theatre’s 2017 production Follies. The costume can be seen in the final episode of BBC Two’s Secrets of the Museum, which airs on Tuesday 24 August at 20:00 BST as is available on iPlayer.
Other costumes going on display over the next 6-months include: Laurence Olivier’s Oscar winning costume from Hamlet (1948) designed by Roger Furse, as well as costumes from Matilda: the Musical and stage ensembles worn by Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Ingrid Bergman and Vivien Leigh. The new all-star cast will go on display alongside costume favourites from the V&A’s world-renowned collection of Theatre and Performance, including Disney’s The Lion King, Wicked the musical and Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake.
Photo credit: V&A Museum