Image: From The Beaux' Stratagem, Susannah Fielding, Pippa Bennett-Warner and Molly Gromadzki (c) Manuel Harlan.
Until June 2020, a free exhibition at the National Theatre celebrates the work of its costume department. The department sources, constructs, alters, repairs, organises and maintains costumes for over 20 new productions on London’s South Bank each year. Meanwhile, the Costume Hire department circulates costumes from its stock of 70,000 to films, photoshoots and other theatre productions. This team of 46 can produce everything from muddy uniforms to giant caterpillars; dress an actor in a corset in under 60 seconds; and strive to ensure things look as good on the final performance as they did on the first.
The Costume at the National Theatre exhibition invites you into their world and is a rare opportunity to see their work up close. Featuring costumes from productions including Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, War Horse, Follies and Antony and Cleopatra, the exhibition visits each stage of the production process; from design to construction, sourcing and alterations, to dressing, repairs and laundering.
Image credit: James Bellorini Photography.
Costume at the National Theatre has been curated by Aoife Monks and is designed by Tom Paris. Both have worked closely with the NT (National Theatre) Costume department and in consultation with designers Vicki Mortimer (Follies) and Katrina Lindsay (Small Island).
Aoife Monks said: ‘Costume is one of the first things we see onstage, telling us immediately about the world of the show we are about to watch. Despite this we often overlook it, thinking more about the character wearing their fictional clothes than the actor in their costume. However, even the most ordinary costumes take extraordinary amounts of work. Drawing on interviews with NTstaff, this exhibition reveals the skill, thought and time that costume requires. You will never overlook it in the same way again.’
Image credit: Tunji Lucas, Ma Rainey. (c) Richard Holttum.
For more information, visit www.nationaltheatre.org.uk