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Theatre & Performance Galleries Tour @ Victoria and Albert Museum

Home > London > Art | Galleries | Museums | Theatre | Tours
by Jo Ellis (subscribe)
Travel blogger, music lover & disaster magnet.
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The World Behind the Spotlight
Curtains up!

Hit the lights and let the show begin!

Magic in words, expressive movements, enthralling music, and amazing stunts all come to life on stage. It has been the art, the thrill, the spotlight, the emotion and the talent which have hypnotised many a generation of spectators.

The evolution of theatre and performance in general and the process behind putting a world-class show is compiled and displayed at The Victoria and Albert Museum, which is only the world's greatest museum of art and design.

We met at the museum's Grand Entrance at 14.00. The tour guide was Mandy Komlosy, a former professional dancer with the Royal Ballet. It was a great luxury to have such a knowledgeable guide who gave us an insight from her first-hand experience in the world of showbiz. As we walked around the V&A theatre and performance collections, Mandy Komlosy discussed costumes, posters, stage sets, anecdotes and theatrical superstitions.

Theatre and Performance Tour
New costumes from the Lion King at V&A Museum

The beginning of the tour took us back in time to the end of the 19th century, to the wonders and calamities of a circus performer's life. Pansy Chinery first amazed audiences far and wide with her shocking act involving her mouth and a hook. Suspended in the air, the one thing that connected her to the trapeze was a long wire she clenched with her teeth. After becoming widely popular on this side of the Atlantic, Pansy crossed the ocean to make her stellar debut as a human arrow. It was then when she had a terrible accident after fainting mid-air in New York. Regardless of her daring profession, Pansy lived to be 90 years old, another wonder in the life of this phenomenal performer. At the museum, visitors can contemplate her costumes and pictures.

The tour continued with the story of theatre performance, which started at churches back in the 1600s with moralistic themes and characters, such as angels and Virgin Mary. Then we explored the world of dance and movements, the process of creating and a book which assembles all the artists in the UK called Spotlight. Every costume director has this book in his possession.

Next, we explored the phase of rehearsal and we were delighted with tales and love stories that took place behind the curtains. We continued to admire eye-catching posters that included famous musicals like "Cats" and some curious ones from plays in the 1700s. It was interesting to see the evolution of posters in the use of colour, design, typography and content.

Behold! William Shakespeare's first folio, original and grandiose, was on display for the viewers' admiration. Indeed, it is right where it belongs. No tour on Theatre and Performance is complete without the work of the world's pre-eminent dramatist.

Theatre and Performance Tour
Kylie Minogue's dressing room

The walk took us to regard costumes worn by Mick Jagger –The Rolling Stones- and Chris Martin. The Lion King's costumes were also on display, and shockingly so, we could observe up-close Kylie Minogue's real dressing room. She came here and opened it. There is even a message from her sister visible to the visitors' eyes. After seeing real-life costumes, we saw how they start off from a drawing all the way to when they are finished. This was illustrated with costumes from the plays "The Pretty Prentice" and "The Phantom of the Opera".

Afterwards, we explored the world of scenery and effects. We found out how it was possible Peter Pan and his friends to fly on stage back then. Some other effects used in theatre like the start trap –rather dangerous- and trap doors were explained.

The tour ended with the stories behind theatrical superstitions. For instance, it is unlucky to whistle and eat oranges at the theatre. Also, you are not supposed to wish an artist good luck as you might put a jinx on their performance. That is the origin of the phrase "break a leg". In the world of theatre, some believe that "Macbeth", a play written by William Shakespeare, is cursed, and will not say its title aloud. In fact, during the tour, Mandy Komlosy referred to it as "the Scottish play", which is a widely spread euphemism for "Macbeth". If you say or do any of these cursed words and actions in the theatre, you have go outside, spit and turn on your own axis three times escape bad luck.
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Why? Because it is the world's greatest museum of art
When: Everyday at 14.00
Phone: 44 (0)20 7942 2000
Where: Victoria and Albert Museum
Cost: Free
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