Monday, 18 April 2011

Day Out: V&A Theatre Galleries

Right, finally managing to blog. I've been feeling a bit peaky today and just couldn't seem to settle into writing or anything focused - that's my excuse if today's post is rather rambling. I'm not sure what my excuse usually is.

This weekend we are back, thanks to weather and the Easter break, to cheap/free days out. Next week, I'll be reviewing The Cult of Beauty at the V&A, which is ticketed, but I thought I would wander down and see one of their free exhibitions this weekend.

'Hamlet' Headdress

Prior to getting a sensible, normal job, I trained and worked in theatre for a while, so was intrigued by the V&A's collections (some of which came from the demise of The Theatre Museum in Covent Garden). These relatively new galleries are tucked away behind several other galleries (notably the DeBeers room, which is well worth a visit - unfortunately due to the burly security men discouraging photography of the obscene quantities of diamond tiaras, it makes a lousy blog post topic) but do seek them out.

Posing mirror & barre-
note the Pavlovian adoption of 3rd position!
There does seem to be a slight schism in focus within the galleries: vox-pops from art directors about the technicalities and political impetus for theatre- with violent and sometimes scary clips- sit cheek-by-jowl next to mirrors with dancer silhouettes to copy and a dressing-up-box. Is this a family gallery or closer to the stern-learned-and-middle-class persona that sometimes puts the best behaved schools off booking trips (sadly, they never seem to get the pitch right between little ones and 6th form, for example if a stone nude is outside the school lunch room, schoolgirls will giggle. Acid comments from staff about immaturity are misplaced: 12 year old girls will giggle at nude statues, it's quite normal, a smile and a joke diffuses the situation more effectively) ...but this is not a 'best place for creative school trips' blog. Come to think of it, over the years I've built up material for one of those. Hmmm. Anyway, less rambling- I think this is about as close to lighthearted and child-focused as the V&A gets. Someone must have nipped next door and had a neb at the animatronic dinosaurs. To my mind, it isn't gadgetry and bright colours that makes a museum family-friendly, but staff attitude; luckily the supervisor in the Theatre Galleries is pretty calm and even lets a little discrete photography.

Costume from 'The Producers' infamous 'Springtime For Hitler' routine.

Kylie's dressing room from the 'Showgirl' tour.
'The Lion King' costumes- fantastic show for anyone
who loves dance and puppetry.
Costumes from a strong-woman with a tiny little 25 inch waist!
His Lordship noted they look like what The Muskerbeers wear on a night out!
Now on to important details: comfort and facilities. The V&A's facilities are in line with its status as one of the world's premier museums of design and manufacturing. There is a pleasant outdoor eating area for those who prefer to bring their own sandwiches (or purchase an ice cream from the kiosk: real dairy cream in a little posh tub, naturally). For everyone's comfort and sensitivity, they even provide a sign to remind us all not to get naked in the courtyard of a major cultural institution:

The first rule of V&A Club: nobody talks about V&A club.
The second rule of V&A club "please keep clothes on."
See - it works! No-one's naked!
I'm now going to be rather crude and show you the toilets. But these are V&A toilets, and are thus some kind of work of art in themselves. They also had a mirror so I can show you my ridiculously twee outfit.

The tiles say 'V&A'!
Yep it's wonky- but it's the only shot without the Tampax machine in it!
They also have a tea room, naturally. A super-tea-room: amazing, giant meringues and deli sandwiches made at pristine counters. I simply had a nice pot of tea: English Breakfast (Earl Grey and Lapsung Souchong were also available). The seating area is the William Morris room- three rooms I adored, as they reminded me of Karpatia, the most romantic restaurant (in Hungary, so not ideal for a Friday night date sadly):

After that, we had a lovely evening at Rockabetty Studios first birthday bash! It was fantastic - everyone there was a joy, enthusiastic and friendly in equal measure. The venue, Bluu Hoxton, was just the perfect setting for a pinup themed party, wallpapered as it is with pretty foxy ladies. I also met Naomi Thompson of 'Vintage Secret' - I love her site and blog for vintage advice, and she is as lovely in 'real life' as online. The only downside was I burned a hole in my neck with my hair tongs before I left, and now look like I have a giant hicky- yet another reason to be more prepared and style overnight sans heat!

What did you do at the weekend? Hope we're all making the best of the good weather, too! :)


  1. Hello:
    As, from your mention of Karpatia in Budapest [the owner of which is very well known to us], you will, we are sure, be aware that so much of what you describe here about the V and A would be unthinkable in a Hungarian museum where interaction with anyone, let alone children, is virtually unheard of. Unless, of course, you include being followed by the guards!

  2. We find the quality of museums seems to vary- and some of the glossiest are poorly researched, some of the more enjoyable are the tumbledown ones!

  3. I hope you feel less peaky soon. Sounds like you had a great time at the weekend. On Sunday I went to the Dr Who Exhibition at Olympia 2 in London and it was amazing. I want to go back!

  4. I need to explore the V&A a lot lot more. Thank you for the inspiration. I shall also remember to keep my clothes on

  5. I love museums,great costumes.
    you always seem to take a foto with ur faced covered.
    I am dieing to see Morrissey in concert,never seen him in London, so hoping to go one this summer.

  6. Ooh I have to see this! Love the Springtime for Hitler costumes. Thanks for your advice on the widget designs, I totally get what you are saying about the last one being too samey - thanks for pointing it out xx

  7. I wish I'd had more time in the V&A when I was there last month. I made a beeline for the historical Britain rooms which were utterly wonderful but there's so, so much else I wanted to see. And I entirely missed the cafe and loos - grrr!

  8. such a beautiful place. love the tea room! :)

  9. Another place to put on my "must visit" list!!! What a fabulous tea room X

  10. The V&A is on my 'must do' list - will get round to it at some point! And I love the 'please do not take off your clothes' thing on the fountain. So British! ;D

  11. I love the V&A and the tea room is gorgeous. I'm a fan of William Morris too.

    Ahhh! I've caught you coming East!! Bluu's great and the lovely Naomi lived next door to me for years until about a month ago. She only left because the woman who owns it wants to do it up to make more money. What a small world it is! xx


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