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Richard III Costume 1944 vs Richard III 2014

Shakespeare 400 at UAL: Costume Designs from WWII to Today

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Published date 18 April 2016

Joining activities across the UK to mark Shakespeare’s legacy on 23 April, Shakespeare 400 has been created to explore Shakespearean costume design and theatre across UAL.

The website showcases the original watercolour sketches of costume designs for some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters from the WWII era, inlcuding John Gielgud’s Hamlet in 1944. These feature alongside some of UAL’s latest student designs showing how Shakespearian costume design has evolved to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400 year legacy.

Richard III Costume by Jeanetta Cochrane, 1944, alongside costume design for Richard III in 2014

Richard III costume design, 1944, by Jeanetta Cochrane, alongside costume design for Richard III in 2014, by Laura Albeck, UAL student

All the original watercolour sketches from WWII era, held by UAL at its Central Saint Martins museum, are by costume designer, Jeanetta Cochrane. The designer, who studied at Central Saint Martins (formerly known as Central school of Art & Design), went on to teach at the college in 1914, at the outbreak of the First World War, and led it from the 1930s through the Second World War, up until her sudden death in 1957.

Commenting on the costume designs, Judy Willcocks, Head of Central Saint Martins Museum, said:

“Jeanetta Cochrane was a real inspiration. These beautiful Shakespeare costume designs show her desire for greater historical accuracy in theatrical costume. I’m delighted they are now curated online for everyone to see so her creativity and memory can live on.”

Jeanetta proposed a building of a professionally equipped theatre with adjoining workshops, costume cutting rooms and design studios for students. Named after her, the former Cochrane Theatre in Holborn (next to the original Central Saint Martins), was opened in 1964 although sadly Jeanetta did not live to see it. The Cochrane Theatre closed in January 2012 and Central Saint Martins, part of UAL since 1986, moved to their new site in the highly-successful art-led regeneration of the King’s Cross area, including the new Platform Theatre.

Nigel Carrington, Vice Chancellor of UAL, said:

“The creative practice-centred approach, exemplified by Jeanetta Cochrane, lives on in the philosophy of all UAL colleges today. Providing a liberating platform for creativity to thrive, UAL has produced multiple winners in the most prestigious art and design awards including the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Oscars. Over the next five years, UAL will invest more than a quarter of a billion pounds on new buildings in regeneration priority areas of London to keep innovation and creativity at the heart of the capital.”

Shakespeare Now – Latest UAL Costume Designs & ‘Shakespeare in the Park’:

For contrast, the latest Shakespearian costume designs from UAL show how Shakespearian costume design has changed over the last 70 years. The costume designs are from two UAL colleges: Central Saint Martins and Wimbledon College of Arts. These prestigious costume and theatre design courses have produced the likes of Jenny Beavan, Oscar winning costume designer for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Gasholder Park, King's Cross

Gasholder Park, King’s Cross

Joining events across the UK for Shakespeare 400, is ‘Shakespeare in the Park’; UAL Central Saint Martins’ production ‘Brave New World’, performed outside in the Gasholder Park in King’s Cross, London. The play takes a radical approach looking at the role of women in four of Shakespeare’s late plays by using only the acts which contain women. The 5 act play will be performed on 22 & 23 April by students from the prestigious MA Acting course which has produced stars such as Edward Holcroft, known for his role in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Wolf Hall.

Costume designs for this production are by Laura Albeck and Sonia Birman, Performance Design and Practice Students at Central Saint Martins.