Last week I went to the Theatre and Performance rooms of the Victoria and Albert Museum to research for a new G.D.P. project based around set and costume design. I was delighted to find that as well as the permanent collection they had on display a temporary exhibition called Gormley to Gaga: Transformation and Revelation detailing the recent history of British design for performance, or scenography as it is nowadays known.

The collection of set models and costumes was enhanced by the display of designs and parts of process to show the problem solving and design thinking of the scenographers. The costume for Agrippina, below, was set beside the actual thing; a dramatic swirly dress designed to show the emotions of the character.

One of the most intriguing designs was the design by Sophie Jump for  Atalanta, which was staged in the new wing of the Ashmolean Museum amongst the sculptures. Viewers carried around a mobile device, such as an iPod, which they could hold up to see a dancer moving around the scene on screen.

Other notable designs were Rae Smith’s set design for War Horse, which were in effect simply blown up pages of her sketchbook. This goes to prove a point that we often say to designers and illustrators that the best work is often the first thumbnails for a concept.

Images courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum press office. Image credits:

Top:[Lady Gaga] Monster Ball World Tour, 2009, set designer Es Devilin

Bottom: Agrippina Opernhaus Zurich, May 2009, costume designer Marie-Jeanne_Lecca