Now into September, our project is galloping into the home straight – we finish at the end of the year.
We’ve worked our way through hundreds of costumes, identified some in the process of self-destruction (see May’s blog – ‘Perils of Foam’), and many others with great potential for exploration and enjoyment – like this wonderful cloak.
Designed by John Napier for the 1974 production of ‘Macbeth’ (Helen Mirren, as Lady Macbeth, had a matching cape – also in the collection), it was re-used in 1976 when Ian McKellen played the title role.
Made from gold-coloured fabric with an over-painted design, the neck and front edges are decorated with a wide band of heavily embroidered panels. Each one features a religious-style figure, and incorporates many materials and techniques – appliqué, raised work, metal thread work, glass beads and metal thread lace.
The designer may have been inspired by church textiles, like the altar frontal in this image:
and by 17th century raised-work embroidery, where part of the design is 3-dimensional:
The cloak is a really impressive example of creativity and craftsmanship, and its rich, heavy and golden appearance would communicate Macbeth’s power and status as he takes Duncan’s place as King. However, the level of detail is still surprising, since the 1974 audiences at the RST wouldn’t have been able to see much of it, unless they were in the front row!
The cloak has suffered some damage over the years and is about to undergo remedial conservation to ensure that it survives into the future – look out for a progress report later in the year!
Maggie Wood & Robyn Greenwood
‘Shakespeare-by-Design’ Project Team