Just me talking about costume-y kind of stuff
London Assurance, 2010
Directed by Nicholas Hytner
Costumes and Scenery by Mark Thompson
All photos credit: National Theatre and Mark Thompson.
The first performance of Dion Boucicault's most well known play was in 1841 at Covent Garden. The plot involves an arrangement between Sir Harcourt, an old rich fop, and his best friend Squire Maxwell Harkaway. Harkaway's daughter Grace must marry Harcourt or lose her estate in the country. Sir Harcourt is a vile, preening fool, and she quickly falls in love with his son, Charles instead. The only problem is getting Sir Harcourt to lose interest in Grace, so Charles can get on with his courting. A willing neighbor, Lady Gay, is up for the challenge, so she throws herself at Harcourt and leads him on a merry chase. Everyone and everything is made fun of along the way and by the end, the two young lovers are allowed to marry.
The crux of the play is the differences between town (London) and country (Gloucestershire). To show us the differences, Thompson designed two sets which rotate for four different looks for the five acts. The first look was the exterior of Sir Harcourt Courtly's home, it rotates to reveal the interior. The second set was the exterior of Squire Max Harkaway's home which also rotates to reveal the interior. The Olivier's revolve made easy work of the set changes. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a photo of Sir Harcourt's interior. If you look at the costume photo of Sir Harcourt in his dressing gown, he is in the interior of his home in that costume.
You may know Mark Thompson's costume designs from The Madness of King George. He was nominated for a Tony for his costumes for Arcadia in 1995. And most recently, he designed costumes and scenery for One Man, Two Guvnors.
The time period of the costumes seems to be 1820's and squarely in the Romantic period. Mark Addy (The Full Monty and Game of Thrones' Robert Baratheon) plays Squire Max, Fiona Shaw (Petunia Dursley from the Harry Potter movies) plays Lady Gay and Simon Russell Beale (Mr. Lyle in Penny Dreadful). Beale's performance as Sir Harcourt is both the most delightful and astonishing thing in the play. As a man of considerable size and weight, he prances across the stage with the skill of a Baryshnikov. He gets the most costume changes of all the other actors and he wears his costumes with the confidence of Lord Byron. His over the top farce is equally matched by Fiona Shaw's performance as Lady Gay. No dainty, shrinking violet, she. She drinks like fish, swears like a sailor, and smokes cigars with relish. Her brashness cuts through all of Harcourt's lyrical advances. She gets the next most costume changes, three, and wears them like a general inspecting his troops. These two are the reason to watch this performance.
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