Thursday, August 28, 2014

Now, fair Hippolyta

In 1976 Stratford was bursting with Canadian and International theatrical royalty - Kate Reid, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Gordon Pinsent, Jeremy Brett, William Hutt, Martha Henry, Brian Bedford and Maggie Smith. Several were to be visiting for the season but others like Hutt, Henry, Bedford and Smith became members of a company that gave some of the most exciting and memorable performances and theatre experiences of the period.

It was at Stratford that Smith and Beford were to forge a partnership that flowered in The Guardsman, Much Ado About Nothing and Private Lives.  And over five seasons Smith spread her wings in many of the great classical roles:  Cleopatra, Lady Macbeth, Rosalind, Marsha, Milliament, Elizabeth Gray, Beatrice, Madame Arkadina, Judith Bliss  and in 1977 the duel role of Hippolyta/Titania in a gorgeous A Midsummer Night's Dream set as an Elizabethan court masque*.

Susan Benson's costume sketch for Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1977.
It was a revival of the production from the previous year with Maggie Smith replaced Jessica Tandy as the earthly and fairy queens.  Designer Susan Benson created new costumes for Smith - Titania in flowing white, silver and gold floating through the woods almost mocking the stiff black, silver and gold of the court bound Athenian bride.

Maggie Smith as Hippolyta - every inch the image of Gloriana.  And a rollover will reveal her alter-ego  Fairy Queen Titania.  Perhaps the real Gloriana wished she could have been so free-spirited.
The work that goes into the costumes for any production at Stratford is remarkable - whither it is  a sequined cowgirl outfit for a dancer in Crazy for You or the Chaplain's stained and worn shirt in Mother Courage.  As part of a Festival display at the Stratford Perth County Museum (a delightful side trip that is definitely "worth the detour") several designers thoughts on how to dress Gloriana on the stage were on display.  And as with any costumes made in the workshops at Stratford they were stunning examples of the craftsmanship that has become one of the trademarks of the Festival.

One of those displayed was Hippolyta's first costume from that 1977 production. To get a closer look either left click on the hot spots at various points on the costume or left click on one of the titles below the picture.

A dress fit for a queen!  Fair Hippolyta indeed.

* The first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream I saw at Stratford in 1960 also had Elizabethan costuming though the fairies were dressed à la Turque.

August 28 - 1879:  Cetshwayo, last king of the Zulus, is captured by the British.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

What an awesome costume!

Ur-spo said...

Quite a different Titania than the one we saw this year!