Curtain Up exhibition at V&A celebrates 40 years of theatre in London and New York

Curtain_Up_hdr_janThe artistry of the theatre in the West End and on Broadway will be celebrated in a major new exhibition which opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum this week (running from 9 February to 31 August 2016).

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York is an exploration of the vast range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions.

Curated by the prestigious V&A and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at the Lincoln Center, in partnership with the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), Curtain Up is a free and immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage to the design workshops and through the history of the awards.

'Top Hat'Olivier Awards, Show, Royal Opera House, London, Britain - 28 Apr 2013

A selection of golden hats from the groundbreaking A Chorus Line are on display Picture: Jonathan Hordle

Part of a year-long programme organised by SOLT to celebrate 40 years of the Olivier Awards, the event has been designed by RFK Architects and Tom Piper, the designer and theatre maker probably best known for his work with ceramic artist Paul Cummins, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the Tower of London poppies installation that captured the world’s imagination.

Curtain Up brings together costumes, designs, models, photographs, archived production material, film and awards, with many items on public display for the first time. Among the objects on display are items from both the V&A’s own collection and that of The Library for the Performing Arts as well as key loans from private collections.

Highlights include original costume designs by Maria Bjornson (1986) for The Phantom of the Opera alongside the costume worn by the most recent West End Phantom; a selection of golden top hats from A Chorus Line which won both the Tony Award (1976) and the inaugural Olivier Award for Best New Musical also in 1976; and the tunic worn by Rudolf Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet which won the Olivier a year later. More recent exhibits include the dress designed by Bob Crowley for Helen Mirren in the multi-award winning The Audience.


Visitors can also see Marian Bjornson’s original costumes designs for The Phantom of the Opera

Commenting on the exhibition which will run until August 31, Mirren said: “Having worked on both Broadway and in the West End, I am delighted that Curtain Up, marking 40 years since the Olivier Awards were inaugurated, honours the shared artistic heritage binding London and New York and showcases the wealth of creative talent that brings great productions to the stage on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Plays and musicals which have performed well both in London and New York will be highlighted with costumes on display from Disney’s The Lion King, designed by Julie Taymor; costume designs by William Ivey Long for Chicago and The Producers; and Christopher Oram’s costume designs for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

There will be the opportunity to see the set models for Matilda the Musical, the RSC musical which won seven Olivier awards and five Tony awards, designed by Rob Howell, as well as models from the National Theatre’s award-winning production War Horse (2007). On display for the first time in the UK will be set models for the New York productions of Carousel (1994) and Sunday in the Park With George (1983).

Film clips from notable theatre productions from the V&A’s National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) and the NYPL’s Theatre on Film and Tape archive (TOFT) will be embedded throughout.

Angela Thomas


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