Opening: the V&A Theatre galleries

Sir Peter and Rebecca Hall, Kevin Spacey, Sam West and Michael Heseltine pick favourite exhibits at the opening of the Theatre and Performance galleries

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Video Transcript

REBECCA HALL

David Redhead(V&A)

Was there anything that stood out for you?

 

Rebecca Hall

There were all sorts of things that stood out. I was fascinated to see costumes, and I love that they have a little area where you can go and try on costumes. I think that's brilliant idea.

 

Redhead

Did you try anything on tonight?

 

Rebecca Hall

I didn't try anything on. But I was standing next to Kevin Spacey who almost got into a Tweedledum outfit.

 

KATE DORNEY, V&A CURATOR

Redhead

Tell us a little bit about what you had in mind.

 

Kate Dorney

Well we wanted something that would do the whole process, from inspiration through to performance, and also something that was dynamic and kind of paid its dues to the people who do the work, but also captured that excitement of being a member of the audience and being a fan.

The show business game is my absolute favourite, I think it encapsulates the whole process of the gallery. But the fact that it's so of its time that it says things like 'Father forbids theatrical career, go back to the village choir' – It's the show biz equivalent of Snakes and Ladders.

 

SIR PETER HALL

Redhead

What are the highlights for you?

 

Sir Peter Hall

Well I suppose it's the way ones memory is jogged, suddenly seeing one of the Eqqus horses from Peter Shaffer's play, the one we did at the Old Vic. And that was a happy kind of school boy memory suddenly I thought, and then seeing Olivier's costume from Oedipus, which was 1945 I think, which I saw as a school boy.

 

Redhead

Really?

 

Sir Peter Hall

I think my card would be pretty good about what I've seen, and I can only recommend to the public to come and see it, because it's so varied, so rich, so funny a lot of it.

 

BETTY JACKSON

Redhead

Have you spotted some highlights?

 

Betty Jackson

Well I'm half way round… You know what, when you walk in and see that rhinoceros, she's just gorgeous isn't she? And you know you can get in there and work her ears? Which I'm actually planning to do, when everybody’s gone, obviously.

 

KEVIN SPACEY

Kevin Spacey

I'm incredibly impressed, and I think it's fantastic that things that were worn by actors or designed by incredible designers or sets…. you've got scenic designs back there with models… It's so important that this stuff be preserved and I can't think of a better place than the V&A.

This stuff is precious. We've got a first folio right there, and apparently in the margins of, it might be King Lear or maybe it's the Scottish play, but there's obviously somebody had it on there knee writing during a performance.

 

Redhead

The man himself possibly?

 

Kevin Spacey

Possibly.

 

Redhead

So any other highlights for you?

 

Kevin Spacey

There's an incredible portrait of Richard Burton as Henry V at the Old Vic in the 1950s that was done, it’s a very regal painting and just harkens back to a certain style.

 

MICHAEL HELESTINE

Redhead

Have you spotted anything that has taken your fancy here tonight?

 

Michael Heseltine

I'm not one for theatricals anymore (laughs) I did enough of that.

 

Redhead

Over there is George Fornby's ukelele…

 

Michael Heseltine

I met him, he came to my father's mess during the war.

 

Redhead

Really?

 

Michael Heseltine

I just told my wife that I'd met him, and I remember him well.

 

Redhead

Was he funny?

 

Michael Heseltine

Well he was very lively and entertaining and I mean I was very young but I remember the visit.

 

SAM WEST

Sam West

I've just discovered that there's a poster of a production that my father was in about 25 years ago, playing Falstaff in Henry IV Part One and Two, so he'll be very pleased. It's obviously a brilliant collection… (laughs) It's over there.

 

Redhead

In the poster collection.

 

Sam West

Yes.

 

Redhead

So are you in…

 

Sam West

Well I came to the opening of a theatrical exhibition in a Victorian museum so I thought I ought to wear a frock coat and a false moustache, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

 

Redhead

It doesn't look false.

 

Sam West

Ahh well there you are.

 

Redhead

What for you makes performing in the theatre special?

 

Sam West

The great thing about theatre from the moment that it started, from the time stories were first told around the first campfire, is that the act of telling the story brings everyone in the room together. And that's what a great theatre experience should do. When theatre doesn't work, it can be very boring, but when it does work it's the best thing in the world.

 

REBECCA HALL

Redhead

Do you think you can get a good insight into the kind of magic of performance and the theatre in this exhibition?

 

Rebecca Hall

I think you definitely get a good insight into things that you wouldn't know about as an audience member. There's a brilliant wall they've put up where they have theatre slang, and they have things like what 'business' means when an actor says 'business', and it really made me giggle that they defined what stage left meant but not stage right, which I thought was curious, as if there's no such thing as stage right.

 

Redhead

You've lost me already… Is stage left right or left?

 

Rebecca Hall

Stage left would be right if you're looking at it, your stage left if you’re looking at it, is right.

 

Redhead

And what is 'business'?

 

Rebecca Hall

'Business' is… it really made me laugh that they put that up… business is something you say, if you're in rehearsal – it's a daft expression – If you're in rehearsal and you go, 'This is a bit of an eggy bit. I'm half way through a speech and I don't really know what to do with my hands, can you give me a bit of business with a tea cup?'

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The V&A's theatre and performance galleries provide an exciting impression of the whole experience of the theatre from the original theatrical concept all the way to its realisation on stage. Its exhibits include everything from original first folios of Shakespeare to the financial accounts of the first run of The Importance of Being Earnest and from costumes worn by Laurence Olivier to a minuscule tour outfit worn by Mick Jagger. In this film shot at the opening of the galleries in 2009, actors, directors, designers and thinkers pick their favourite objects and provide their take on the importance of the collection.

Kevin Spacey is impressed by a 'regal' portrait of Richard Burton, Sam West finds a poster for a performance by his father Timothy and Rebecca Hall applauds a display dedicated to theatre jargon and slang