Not currently on display at the V&A

Becket

Costume Design
1962 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

Costume design by Leslie Hurry for the Duke of Arundel in Becket by Jean Anouilh as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1961. The Duke of Arundel was played by James Keen.

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.

The play, Becket or The Honour of God, by Jean Anouilh is an ironical view of the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas à Becket used for the playwright’s own debate. As he wrote in the programme note ‘I hope the English will forgive me…for never bothering to find out what Henry II or even Becket was really like. I created the King I wanted and the ambiguous Becket I needed.’ Anouilh’s play was translated into English by Lucienne Hill and directed by Peter Hall for Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre, London, where it opened on 11 July
1961. It transferred to the Globe Theatre, London, and first performed on 13 December 1961.

Leslie Hurry’s set and costume designs came in for considerable discussion by the critics. Philip Hope Wallace in the Guardian (13 July 1961) considered the scenery had weight and splendour that served Hall’s approach to the play as a ‘large chronicle play’.

Costumes were made by Bonn and Mackenzie.



Object details

Categories
Object type
TitleBecket (assigned by artist)
Materials and techniques
Black ink, crayon, watercolour and pencil on paper with fabric swatches
Brief description
Costume design by Leslie Hurry for the Duke of Arundel in Becket by Jean Anouilh as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1961
Physical description
Ink, crayon and watercolour on paper design by Leslie Hurry with pencil annotation and black, brown and grey fabric swatches in the top right corner. The design is for the Duke of Arundel in the RSC's 1961 production of Becket by Jean Anouilh and shows a man swathed in long dark robes and holding a large sword.
Dimensions
  • Height: 47.4cm
  • Width: 25.5cm
Marks and inscriptions
  • Duke of Arundel 'Becket' Leslie Hurry 1962 James Keen V (On front side in pencil and black and purple ink)
  • £200 12 19 (On reverse side in pencil)
Credit line
Given by Mrs Caro Rathbone
Literary referenceBecket
Summary
Costume design by Leslie Hurry for the Duke of Arundel in Becket by Jean Anouilh as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1961. The Duke of Arundel was played by James Keen.

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.

The play, Becket or The Honour of God, by Jean Anouilh is an ironical view of the relationship between King Henry II and Thomas à Becket used for the playwright’s own debate. As he wrote in the programme note ‘I hope the English will forgive me…for never bothering to find out what Henry II or even Becket was really like. I created the King I wanted and the ambiguous Becket I needed.’ Anouilh’s play was translated into English by Lucienne Hill and directed by Peter Hall for Royal Shakespeare Company at the Aldwych Theatre, London, where it opened on 11 July
1961. It transferred to the Globe Theatre, London, and first performed on 13 December 1961.

Leslie Hurry’s set and costume designs came in for considerable discussion by the critics. Philip Hope Wallace in the Guardian (13 July 1961) considered the scenery had weight and splendour that served Hall’s approach to the play as a ‘large chronicle play’.

Costumes were made by Bonn and Mackenzie.

Collection
Accession number
S.1916-2014

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Record createdAugust 27, 2014
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