Costume design for 'Australia' for the 1908 Drury Lane pantomime Dick Whittington
Watercolour and pencil on card
Museum no. 89/1202
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This gold costume design is by the prolific Victorian stage designer, Attilio Comelli. It was for the 1908 Drury Lane pantomime Dick Whittington, written by J. Hickory Wood and Arthur Collins. The splendid pantomimes at Drury Lane theatre in the late 19th and early 20th century were famed for their extravagant costumes and sets. The story, however, was almost incidental to the settings. For this production four leading set designers of the day provided fourteen different sets. The finale of Act 1 was one of several processions of exotically dressed characters. The figure of Australia appeared as part of it, and may have been carried on in her throne. Comelli researched his designs carefully. His character representing Australia sits on a throne topped by a Southern star, and backed by a pickaxe and shovel. These implements, and the colour of her costume, relate to the gold-rush fever that swept Australia in the second half of the 19th century. Despite its apparently bare top, this costume would have been made with a flesh- coloured bodice!