Monday, July 27, 2015

mostly about costume...

Illyria touring theatre company is a regular and very popular visitor at Merlin's ECOS amphitheatre, and Shakespeare's plays are among their staple offerings - always performed uncut and with 5 actors.  To use the full script with original pronunciation must inspire admiration, but it's the creation of 21 characters by quick changes of attire, voice, & mannerism that's the main entertainment (I think with the comedy rozzer this version had 22). Top-hats in rainbow colours were useful, and overall design could be loosely described as Mad Hatter Tea-party costumed by Boden.  Some of the character shifts work incredibly well: sweet Bianca also plays cocky servant Tranio and Petruchio, the outrageous 'tamer' of Kate, changing personality superbly including once in a single scene. The Duke whose cruel joke sets the comedy in motion (in a longwinded opening more generally omitted) becomes an ASBO Kate as well as a dithering suitor for her sister.  There were wigs, there were fart jokes, comic props, occasional impro, and rapid-fire script delivery including a variety of accents...  there were lots of laughs, in short, finishing with a flourish and a rock gospel song. A bit disappointing that rain meant a transfer into the theatre, as this panto-style production is designed for outdoor performance and that's where it's best viewed.

On a theme of flamboyant apparel, I've long intended to visit the historic fashion collection at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, and as there's currently a Jane Austen exhibition this seemed a good opportunity for enhanced self-indulgence. The exhibition at Victoria Art Gallery is mainly prints of Bath around the time (1801-1805) Jane lived there, with a few John Nixon caricatures, but with quotes from novels and letters as captions. Jane didn't think much of place apparently, rejecting several residences as too small (New King Street), too gloomy (Seymour Street) and putrefying (Green Park): she wrote little while there, and viewed the city's fashionable venues as superficial gatherings for marriage-hunters and the 'nouveau riche' - like Mrs Elton in Emma.
Next stop the Fashion Museum where, as well as these superb examples of Janite attire, there's examples of marvellous frocks and jackets through the ages, and visitors are not only allowed but encouraged to photograph them. That's a definition of bliss for me.  So much to drool over, including a long array of fashion icons I actually remember. Many strange designs but only one awful one: the 'Dress of the Year' last year looked like a massive seagull atrociously entangled in plastic bags and salvaged by Greenpeace.
Despite wearing the same green jeans for years, I have an alter-ego fascinated by frocks.  As a teen I drew and painted imagionary 'dress designs': my 'Emma' collection involved high bodices and lots of tiny buttons on the sleeves. My mother actually made me one, in purple and exactly as drawn. I've still got the old sketch books and it's surprising to see how much they pre-empted street fashions of the later sixties. Zeitgeist. I guess.

So this post ends with a picture of me and a 50-years-later interview by Dan Biggane of Frome Standard, all about my very different life now. 

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