An electric Faust outfit and a pair of kinky boots in V&A’s ‘major refresh’

A fabulous red dress and thigh-high leather boots worn by Lola the drag queen in the musical Kinky Boots are to go on display near to what many would say is the equally fabulous red ensemble worn by Henry Irving in an 1885 production of Faust.

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London has announced details of a “major refresh” of its theatre and performing arts galleries, と 80% of the objects going on display for the first time.

One of those is the Lola costume, a recent acquisition, which was installed last week. “It was just lovely seeing everyone smiling as this fabulous, sparkly drag queen cascaded through the galleries,” said Simon Sladen, the V&A’s senior curator of modern and contemporary performance.

Lola’s link to Irving, the Victorian actor-manager, may not be obvious on paper but will be when visitors see the outrageous red cloak, jerkins and breeches he had made for his performance as Mephistopheles in Faust.

It was a show that included real electric sparks in the sword fight scenes, generated by connecting the actors’ weapons to the primitive electric mains with wires through the costumes to metal-plated shoes.

Both costumes used light in interesting ways and were part of the same narrative, Sladen said. One of the joys of the galleries was being able “to see that everything in performance is part of an evolution, a continuation. You don’t get one without the other. Arguably, Irving was inventing early pyrotechnics, which we see every day on the stage these days.”

The refresh of the galleries was a huge project involving the display of more than 120 objects and nearly four years in the planning, Sladen said.

It may go some way to allay concern that the museum was downgrading its commitment to performing arts. A reorganisation of curatorial staff led to fears that the collection was in jeopardy, with Elaine Paige among those to ring alarm bells.

The V&A said preserving the national collection of theatre and performance remained fundamental to its mission.

“These collections, access to them and the theatre and performance galleries at the V&A in South Kensington, were never at risk, and have not been impacted by the restructure of the V&A’s curatorial teams.”

The refresh, taking place between now and April 2022, would also better reflect the diversity of the collection, Sladen said.

Among the objects is a pair of the UK’s first skin-tone pointe shoes for Black, Asian and dual-heritage dancers. They were worn by Cira Robinson as Tituba in Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible (2019).

The galleries also tell the story of pop and, でも the UK failed miserably at the Eurovision song contest この年, the pink mini dress worn by Sandie Shaw when she won the competition in 1967 will go on display.

There will also be the costume Shirley Bassey wore on the cover of Diamonds Are Forever and a number of times more over 50 years of her career. It was often customised but never once taken in or out.

There are also cases with photographs, scripts, set designs and so on. One case will tell the story of Gabrielle Enthoven, who essentially kickstarted the national collection when, に 1924, she donated 80,000 playbills and other theatre memorabilia to the museum. It was accepted after a campaign lasting 10 年.

“Without her, we wouldn’t be here today,” Sladen said.

He added that it was always exciting to see new objects on display but particularly poignant after a year in which the performing arts has been so devastated by the pandemic. “This is a celebration of the sector," 彼は言った.

A nod to that will be the display of a publicity map showing where Gifford’s Circus was touring in 2020. Of course, it didn’t happen but is now. “The show is going strong.”

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