Sunday, 29 May 2016

Interpreting Duncan Grant's 1912 designs for Macbeth

In 1912 Duncan Grant was commissioned by the English director Harley Granville-Barker to produce a set of costume designs for Macbeth to be performed at the Savoy Theatre, London. As Claudette Joannis writes in her chapter in Beyond Bloomsbury Designs of the Omega Workshops 1913-19 (2009), the play was not a success for Grant because  his designs did not appear in their original form. 

Volunteers at the Charleston Trust came across the original designs recently while cataloguing the Angelica Garnett Gift. Grant's fluid sketches contain few details but give an overall impression of a set of bold and stylish costumes not dissimilar to those seen at the Ballet Russes.

An HLF funded project based at Charleston has brought 5 of Grant's designs to life for a one-off performance in the gardens on Sunday 29th May to coincide with the Charleston Festival. My role has been to interpret the designs by adding colours and selecting fabrics and to recreate the designs by working alongside talented volunteers from Brighton-based charity Gladrags.

I began with research, including a visit to study Omega textiles at Charleston. I then made 5 design boards to explain how I envisaged the completed costumes. The volunteers at Gladrags assigned themselves into 5 teams and used the boards as a starting point. The designs evolved in the making stages as volunteers were encouraged to contribute ideas and skills.

design sheet for Macduff. The colour inspiration taken from Klimt

fitting Macduff

testing the placement of squares

My design board for Lennox featuring an applique sample, and colour references taken from Duncan Grant's Omega textiles and the Ballets Russes. Calico was used as a background for the applique and for the gown worn under the cloak because it is close in texture to painters canvas and Grant's approach to design appears to have been  to consider costumes as 3D painting
Hat for Lennox 
Macduff and Macbeth
The costumes hanging up before the performance

Macduff in action

Gladrags volunteers explaining the project to the Charleston festival audience

Macbeth and Lady Macbeth

Macduff collar detail and below Macduff waiting to speak

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