Event Review - Curtain Up at the V&A

July 18, 2016

We hopped along to one of our favourite event venues, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, to check out their free exhibition that celebrates 40 years of theatre in London and the West End.

The first thing you see as you walk into Curtain Up, which is masterfully attached onto the permanent Theatre & Performance rooms, is the Red Death costume from The Phantom of the Opera. The role was made famous by Michael Crawford in both London and the US, but it is the costume and the various designs for it that receive the spotlight here. It is all too easy to forget just how many people it takes to create a West End show, but it is thankfully reinforced in this production throughout.

 Moving on from The Phantom of the Opera, the original Joey from War Horse is also presented complete with crew members’ legs to show just how the model worked, as well as costumes from Swan Lake and The Lion King. Various posters adorn the room as well, showcasing how differently the West End and the Broadway have advertised the same show over the years.

Ever wanted to be in A Chorus Line? Well now you can see exactly what you would have looked like had you been cast! As a snippet from the show plays on a TV, you walk through a small corridor with the sparkly hats above you and a mirror to your right. Perhaps you quite don’t have the athleticism or flexibility in your legs to pull off the dance moves, but it’s fun to see how you hold up (and even more fun to read what one of the writer’s thought of the show during rehearsals…  Allegedly one song ‘died’ during the bridge and the character whom played Cassie really needed to work on her entrance!)

 There are moments in the exhibition to have a little play with the lighting booths and see how the spotlight changes from red to blue, though we feel should point that although rather wonderful, it is a small temporary curated piece rather than a multitude of many different rooms. Even so, there’s a lot to see including Helen Mirren’s dress from The Audience (where she played The Queen) and some of the original tiles from the set design of Matilda.

Even after all this, the best bit is saved for last. For anybody who has seen The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and wanted to experience what it is like on stage, well now you can! A small portion of the set has been moved to the V&A so that you can see for yourself what it’s like to be surrounded by so many flashing LEDs and have the names of various tube stations crawl across the floor in front and behind you. It’s all very cool and for those that haven’t seen the show, you can sit down and enjoy a few outtakes from the production.

All in all, we had a very enjoyable hour exploring Curtain Up and highly advise you to enjoy the rest of the Theatre & Performance section of the museum. Even if the theatre isn’t your favourite thing in the world, there’s more than enough to keep you interested including a few models of various theatre and a lifesize creation of a rhinoceros on full display. Perfect.

The exhibition runs until August 31st 2016.


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By Henry Fosdike