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Not currently on display at the V&A

Theatre Costume

1964 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Fibreboard, gold-painted leatherette, gold braid, upholstery studs, black paint, foam rubber and felt
Brief Description
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.
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.
Dimensions
  • Including crest height: 500cm
  • To widest points width: 43cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'O'LEARY' (Label; Reverse; Ink)
  • 'SCOTT EATON' (Label; Inside felt cap; Ink)
Credit line
Given by Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals Inc
Object history
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.
Summary
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.
Bibliographic Reference
Wengrow, Arnold, Observe and show: the theatre art of Michael Annals, London, V&A Publications, 2003
Other Number
CONS.10359-2003 - Theatre Museum Conservation Number
Collection
Accession Number
S.33-2003

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record createdSeptember 16, 2003
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