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Theatre costume

  • Date:

    1964 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Resin, fibreboard, gold-painted leatherette, paint, upholstery studs, copper foil, pheasant feathers, elastic and foam rubber

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Dodger Stage Holding Theatricals Inc

  • Museum number:

    S.35-2003

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Mask for the Inca High Priest, Villac Umu, designed by Michael Annals for the premiere of Peter Shaffer's epic play, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, by 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. It is made of moulded resin, painted to resemble metal, and appears to be very heavy, but, in fact, weighs very little.

Physical description

High crested, moulded resin half mask with an attached fibreboard eye piece covered in gold-painted leatherette. Above the nose is a triangle of copper foil. The resin is painted in dull copper with some black shading to suggest metal, the crest is decorated with metal upholstery studs and pheasant feathers. The reverse of the mask is padded with foam rubber and there are elastic supports to hold the mask in place, secured to the reverse by D-hoops and carpet tape.

Date

1964 (made)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Resin, fibreboard, gold-painted leatherette, paint, upholstery studs, copper foil, pheasant feathers, elastic and foam rubber

Marks and inscriptions

'VILLAC'
Label; Reverse; Ink

Dimensions

Height: 340 mm to widest points, Width: 510 mm to widest points, Length: 74 cm Feathers (length of longest), Weight: 2.2 kg Boxed weight

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.

This mask was worn by Villac Umu, Hign Priest of Peru, played by Edward Petherbridge in the National Theatre production and by Mylo Quam in New York.

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

Mask for the Inca High Priest, Villac Umu, 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

Resin; Fibre-board; Leatherette; Gold paint; Paint; Metal; Foil; Feathers; Elastic; Foam rubber

Techniques

Glueing; Painting; Moulding

Categories

Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes

Collection

Theatre and Performance Collection

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