‘Shakespeare-by-Design’ Project – 7th Update
As the ‘Shakespeare-by-Design’ project speeds towards its end on December 31st. we are many costumes older and wiser!
Amongst the most intriguing that we’ve seen are those designed by the Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi for ‘King Lear’ in 1955. They’re not like anything else we’ve looked at!
Directed by John Gielgud, who also played King Lear, the production design attempted to create a timeless setting, free from all previous associations. It got very mixed reviews. Some admired Noguchi’s originality, while others were scathing in their criticism.
‘Lear looks like a Gruyere cheese’ said the critic from the ‘Daily Sketch’, on July 27th.
‘Courtiers are dressed like space-men’ exclaimed the ‘Northern Daily Echo’.
Not only were Noguchi’s designs startlingly futuristic, but his working methods were unconventional too. His process for communicating costume ideas was to make small paper dolls dressed in layers of clothes that could be taken off. The costume makers found them hard to make sense of.
Featuring geometric shapes, the costumes were made from stiffened felt, leather and rubber. Actors found them hard to move around in, and the dress rehearsal was a disaster- actors engaged in a fight scene couldn’t stay on their feet.
Over 50 years after their first appearance, Isamu Noguchi’s extraordinary designs for ‘King Lear’ still have the power to surprise and astonish.
Shakespeare-by-Design Project team