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Costume design - Design by Roger Furse for Ralph Richardson as Sir John Falstaff
  • Design by Roger Furse for Ralph Richardson as Sir John Falstaff
    Furse, Roger Kemble, born 1903 - died 1972
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Design by Roger Furse for Ralph Richardson as Sir John Falstaff

  • Object:

    Costume design

  • Place of origin:

    London (drawn)

  • Date:

    1945 (drawn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Furse, Roger Kemble, born 1903 - died 1972 (costume designers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pencil on paper

  • Museum number:

    S.138-2001

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Design by Roger Furse for a 'fat suit' for Ralph Richardson as Sir John Falstaff in <i>Henry IV, Parts I and II</i>, Old Vic Company at the New Theatre (now the Nöel Coward Theatre), 1945.

In 1945, Roger Furse designed the costumes for both parts of Henry IV, directed by John Burrell. Ralph Richardson was determined to emphasise that Falstaff was Sir John, a knight and gentleman. It was the job of the costume designer and maker to produce a ‘fat-suit’ that could maintain Falstaff’s dignity. This drawing is a rare survival as it shows how the designer envisaged the padding might be constructed. The anatomy is carefully drawn and measured, to give folds of 'fat' at the proper places and follow the muscular structure of chest, back, leg and stomach, and show how the layers fit over each other. The red line indicates Richardson's body within the padding. Because of the difficulty of padding out the face, Furse suggests making the collar high and stiff, so that any spare flesh is forced out on to the jowls. Unlike many designs, which are an evocation of a costume, this is a structured blueprint for the maker, although Furse is not dogmatic, noting that these are 'suggestions as to how it should be made'. In spite of, or maybe because of, the costume, Richardson gave a performance which many considered definitive.

The suit was made by Alix Stone, a future theatre designer, then in her first job as an assistant in the Old Vic workshops. It had an inner layer of towelling, covered in light mackintosh (a rubber-coated fabric) to protect Richardson from the outer layer of horsehair. Stone also created gnarled fat man’s legs using silk padding, over which Richardson wore red stockings.

Physical description

Design for a 'fat suit' for Falstaff. The design depicts the front, side and back views of a nude male figure, indicating to a costumier how a body suit for an extremely fat man should be made.

Place of Origin

London (drawn)

Date

1945 (drawn)

Artist/maker

Furse, Roger Kemble, born 1903 - died 1972 (costume designers)

Materials and Techniques

Pencil on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'The collar should be high / and stiff, not only giving / added thickness to the / neck & shoulders but / also forcing out any flesh / on the jowl, giving a / look of fatness to the / face.'
Inscribed in pencil, upper centre

'Sir John Falstaff, / his padding, and suggestions as to how it should be made. / R. Furse'
Inscribed in pencil, with artist's signature, lower right

Dimensions

Height: 39.3 cm, Width: 56.7 cm

Object history note

This costume design by Roger Furse is part of an extensive collection of designs acquired by the Theatre Museum from the stage designer Alix Stone in 1994. The design was made for Shakespeare's Henry IV Parts I and II at the New Theatre, 26 September 1945, directed by John Burrell. Alix Stone worked as assistant to the costume designer on these productions.

Descriptive line

Design by Roger Furse for a 'fat suit' for Ralph Richardson as Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts I and II, Old Vic Company at the New Theatre (now the Nöel Coward Theatre), 1945

Materials

Pencil; Paper

Techniques

Drawing (image-making)

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Theatre; Designs

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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