What’s up? Curtains Up!

Arrest me for blogging neglect. I abandoned Hello Emma Kay for two whole weeks. Full time work and general life barred me from writing. I’m ashamed and battled with constant writer’s blogger’s block. I know it’s a poor excuse, but, to be honest, I needed the breather. Friends text me to ask whether I’m still alive and family made me a theatre swear jar, banning me from mentioning the word theatre (bit hard when you work in one!) Blogging demands constant attention, injects the Botox of ‘look at me’ alongside the duck faced pout. So here’s my late Easter treat for you (or perhaps just me)…the resurrection of Hello Emma Kay.

Feeling a bit low on the theatre blogging juice, I needed somewhere where I could reflect and restore my love for the theatre…or simply WAKE UP! I’ve spent some time away from numbing my bum in the theatre seat and needed the freedom to simply wander through my gardens of Eden. The Victoria and Albert Museum was my guardian angel and rolled away my blog’s sudden tumbleweed.

Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York explores the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions. The show is a free and immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet.

Victoria and Albert Press Release, 2016

The Curtain Up display was a small peep through the red drapes of the theatre world. Like a curtain twitcher on Neighbour Theatrehood Watch, I wanted to see what’s all the fuss about. I’m not a massive stagey fan, but Curtain Up satisfied curiosity and granted the VIP access to see the gold, frankincense and myrrh of theatreland.

9._Installation_view_of_Curtain_Up_Celebrating_40_Years_of_Theatre_in_London_and_New_York_at_the_VA_9_Feb_-_31_August_2016
Installation view of ‘Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York’ at the V&A 9 February – 31 August 2016 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

From War Horse’s beloved Joey, Lion Kings Scar, to A Chorus Lines top hats and Matilda‘s set design, Curtain Up was the museum’s treasure chest. Admiring the costumes and set designs’ details, I became an Olivier Emma statue with the ultimate pondering face throughout the display.

Like a nightclub in the museum, Curtain Up has a very glamorous and explosive entrance. With moving spotlights, red curtain and theatre mapped floor, flying souvenir programmes and the Shaftesbury Avenue Theatreland street sign, and the merging soundtracks of A Chorus Line and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I was eye popped.

The exhibition’s Beefeater was the ‘Red Death’ costume worn by John Owen-Jones’ Phantom in the masquerade scene of The Phantom of the Opera. Gulping at the sight of it, I knew he was staring me down to buy a ticket to see the show (it’s on my theatre wishlist!). I also loved Maria Bjornson’s costume sketches and fabric swatches, and smirked at her notes: Ask Gillian shoes or bare feet? Take away all this glitz and glamour of the theatre world, the display grounds the human touch of people at work.

2._Installation_view_of_Curtain_Up_Celebrating_40_Years_of_Theatre_in_London_and_New_York_at_the_VA_9_Feb_-_31_August_2016
Installation view of ‘Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York’ at the V&A 9 February – 31 August 2016 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Working in the theatre industry, you can be incredibly blasé about your workplace and forget how blessed you are. I regularly walk backstage and sometimes bump into the odd famous face, but you treat them like…normal human beings….I know that sounds incredibly cheesy. Personally, I adore the stories onstage, not the stars. I fell into this obsession many moons ago, but broke free from the salivating fangirl. I guess it’s comforting to still recognise beauty and value of craftsmanship within your industry and not get distracted by the famous names.

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Installation view of ‘Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York’ at the V&A 9 February – 31 August 2016 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Tempted to do the jazz hands and high kicks through A Chorus Line’s mirrored corridor, there were a couple of hands on activities: fooling around with the coloured spotlight spectrum and controlling Hairsprays techy soundbooth. It was a nice interactive touch, but made me question the exhibition’s immersive experience. Costumes and set designs were behind bars or glass. You can admire the jewels, but can’t touch or wear them, love.

Sitting on a bench within The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’s installation and watching the floor and walls graphically alight, this was the final room of Curtain Up. Being a virtual cool space, I loved the synchronized snippet of the live screening, surround sound and projections. Now this was the very definition of being immersed on a stage. With its flashing lights and clever graphics, I watched the replay several times before I felt guilty of hogging the space.

4._Installation_view_of_Curtain_Up_Celebrating_40_Years_of_Theatre_in_London_and_New_York_at_the_VA_9_Feb_-_31_August_2016
Installation view of ‘Curtain Up: Celebrating 40 Years of Theatre in London and New York’ at the V&A 9 February – 31 August 2016 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Curtain Up was short, sharp and sweet….so much so I went round three times, making sure I witnessed it all. Luckily, the display leads back into the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Theatre and Performance rooms, which kept me amused for the rest of the afternoon. I had a little play with the Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Streets model box lights control and smiled at the children dressing up in colourful costumes from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s costume box. We all were young once….

v and a hello emma kay

Make sure visit the Victoria and Albert Museum and, of course, the Curtain Up display. Don’t worry you have plenty of time to see it as the display ends on 31 August. See more here.

I’ve also booked up their Study Day: Les Mis to Matilda: A Celebration of Musical Theatre on 16 April so if you fancy coming along or looking at their other events, have a look or book here.

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5 thoughts on “What’s up? Curtains Up!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, Molly! Yes! Make sure you visit, but remember it is small. Have a wander around the rest of the V and A. Would love to read about your visit! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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