Costume design for 'Africa' for the 1908 Drury Lane pantomime Dick Whittington
Watercolour and pencil on card
Museum no. 89/1202
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This costume design by the prolific Victorian stage designer, Attilio Comelli, was for the Drury Lane pantomime Dick Whittington, by J. Hickory Wood and Arthur Collins. It was for one of the many extravagant costumes that were so popular in the splendid pantomimes at Drury Lane theatre in the late 19th and early 20th century. This pantomime told the familiar story of Dick Whittington, played by Queenie Leighton, overcoming all obstacles to marry Alice Fitzwarren, played by Marie Wilson, and become the Lord Mayor of London. The story, however, was almost incidental to the extravagant scenes and the costumes. The finale of Act 1 was a procession of exotically dressed characters played out against one of the fourteen different set designs. 'Africa' was in the parade, and may have been carried on in her throne. Comelli researched the sources of his designs carefully. His character representing Africa is an Egyptian goddess who carries two sceptres and wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, in North Africa. Despite its apparently bare top, this costume would have been made with a flesh-coloured bodice!