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Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (designed)

  • Date:

    1964 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Annals, Michael, born 1938 - died 1990 (theatre designer)
    Gunter, John, born 1938 - died 2016 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Fibreboard, gold-painted leatherette, gold braid, upholstery studs, black paint, foam rubber and felt

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals Inc

  • Museum number:

    S.33-2003

  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 105, case 11

This Inca mask was designed by Michael Annals for the premiere of Peter Shaffer's epic play The Royal Hunt of the Sun by the National Theatre Company in 1964. The play tells the story of the Spanish conquest of Peru and the death of the god-king, Atahuallpa. Michael Annals devised a spectacular staging, based on the emblem of the sun, and dressed the Incas in dazzling masks and headdresses. 'We drowned the stage with gold and feathers', said Shaffer. It was a triumph of design which established the 26-year-old Annals as a major talent.
The mask is a good example of the ingenuity of the theatrical costume maker. From a distance it looks like beaten copper, but it is, in fact, constructed from fibreboard covered in gold-painted leatherette and decorated with upholstery studs.

Physical description

Flat, full-face mask with eye, nostril and mouth holes and nose cone, the mask extending beyond the wearer's face and incorporating circular 'earring' shapes to each side. From the flat top rises a branched crest decorated with metal upholstery studs. The whole is made from fibreboard covered with gold-painted leatherette, with some shading in black paint, to suggest beaten metal, the eyes and mouth being emphasized and exaggerated by applied lines of fibreboard and the 'earrings' edged with gold braid. The metal covering of the nose cone is missing. The mask is attached to a moulded felt cap and there is foam rubber padding on the reverse.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (designed)

Date

1964 (made)

Artist/maker

Annals, Michael, born 1938 - died 1990 (theatre designer)
Gunter, John, born 1938 - died 2016 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Fibreboard, gold-painted leatherette, gold braid, upholstery studs, black paint, foam rubber and felt

Marks and inscriptions

'O'LEARY'
Label; Reverse; Ink

'SCOTT EATON'
Label; Inside felt cap; Ink

Dimensions

Height: 500 cm including crest, Width: 43 cm to widest points

Object history note

This mask was designed by Michael Annals for the premiere of The Royal Hunt of the Sun, which John Dexter directed for the National Theatre Company in 1964. The production opened at the Chichester Festival Theatre and then transferred to the Old Vic. Following its British success, Dexter re-staged the play for the ANTA Theatre, New York, using the same production team. The masks made for the National Theatre were re-used in the Broadway production.

Historical significance: A fortunate survival from a significant theatre production of the 1960s. Peter Shaffer's epic play was the newly established National Theatre Company's first premiere and a major triumph of direction and design. It established the career of Michael Annals, who went on to work extensively at the National Theatre and on Broadway.

Descriptive line

Inca mask, designed by Michael Annals for Peter Shaffer's play, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, National Theatre Company, Chichester Festival Theatre and Old Vic, 1964; ANTA Theatre, New York, 1965.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wengrow, Arnold. Observe and Show: the theatre art of Michael Annals. London: V&A Publications, 2003. 72p., ill. ISBN 1 85177 4505

Materials

Fibre-board; Leatherette; Gold braid; Metal; Foam rubber; Felt; Gold paint; Paint

Techniques

Glueing; Painting

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes; Hats & headwear

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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