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Set design - The Cenci

The Cenci

  • Object:

    Set design

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (drawn)

  • Date:

    1959 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Hurry, Leslie, born 1909 - died 1978 (designer)
    Old Vic Theatre (producer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Charcoal on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Caro Rathbone

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Set design by Leslie Hurry The Cenci, Old Vic, 1959.

Leslie Hurry (1909-1978) trained at the Royal Academy and during the 1930s became known as a surrealist painter. A one-man show in London in 1942 was seen by the theatre director, Michael Benthall, who recommended Hurry to the dancer and choreographer, Robert Helpmann, then planning a ballet based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. The success of his designs set Hurry on a second career as one of the most distinguished theatre designers of his generation. He designed operas, ballets and plays, notably Swan Lake for the Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1943, a production which stayed in the repertoire for thirty years; Venice Preserv'd for Peter Brook (1953); the Ring Cycle at Covent Garden (1954), and Troilus and Cressida at Stratford for Peter Hall (1960), famous for being staged in a sand pit.

Leslie Hurry's designs for The Cenci, a play by Percy B. Shelley (written in 1819) was directed by MIchael Benthall with music by John Lambert for the Old Vic London. The production was first performed on 29 April 1959. Based on true incidents in Italy the play is set during the Pontificate of Clement VIII (1592-1605).

The programme describes the play as being in two parts and with five scenes in each half but these do not match the descriptions on the designs which appear to follow the five acts of the text. The Guardian (01/05/1959) described the sets as being ‘appropriately romantic’ with the ten scenes separated by ‘bouts of electronic jangling’. The Star praised Leslie Hurry for giving the production plenty of colour

Physical description

Charcoal on paper set design for 1959 production of The Cenci at Old Vic Theatre. The set depicted is a large hall with two sets of stairwells on either side of the room. There also appears to be some iron gates in the background.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (drawn)


1959 (made)


Hurry, Leslie, born 1909 - died 1978 (designer)
Old Vic Theatre (producer)

Materials and Techniques

Charcoal on paper


Height: 22.5 cm, Width: 30 cm

Descriptive line

Set design by Leslie Hurry The Cenci, Old Vic, 1959


Charcoal black; Paper


Drawing (image-making)


Entertainment & Leisure


Theatre and Performance Collection

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