Monthly Archives: July 2017

An Ancient Curiosity!

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Reminded this week of an old gag- Old Mother Riley asking Daughter Kitty where she has been. Kitty replies “I went to a museum, Mother, to see an ancient curiosity”

“An Ancient Curiosity? An Ancient Curiosity? Why didn’t you come home and see your Mother?”

Well, we finally made it into a museum this week- Peter Robbins and I – when Catherine Haill, and Assistant Curator Alex Clayton came to take us away! The museum in question is The Victoria & Albert Museum, Department of Theatre and Performance, and hopefully one day we will get an airing, and make a display of ourselves!

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Catherine Haill & Nigel, with Peter & Nigel photobombing!

The story started many years ago when Catherine asked Peter and I if we would consider donating a costume or two to the museum. Catherine especially liked our ballgowns. We were being filmed by the V&A for their pantomime archive at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

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The Ballroom wigs- created by Kevin Powling and Geraldine Westley : “Wigart”.

At the time we were unable to hand over our Ballroom frocks, as there were many ballroom stairs to descend and slippers to be retrieved. This year I decided it would be the time to gift these two costumes and wigs, along with crinolines and plumes. I thought it would be nice for a little bit of Robbins & Ellacott to be kept somewhere for posterity- I can almost here Peter saying “You’re not keeping ME in any old Posterior!

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Our final panto together at Nottingham Theatre Royal. (2009) With the lovely Dawson Chance.

These gorgeous costumes were made by Margaret Brice for Peter & I to my designs. Margaret was resident maker at the Kenneth More Theatre for over twenty-one years, and before that was at Berman & Nathans creating costumes for film and TV.

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Margaret Brice’s costume for Nigel. Circa 2000

Margaret already has some of her workmanship at the V&A. She worked on the Cecil Beaton “My Fair Lady” among many projects stored in their archive.

It was lovely to see Catherine again, along with Alex, and also a sad day in some ways. The ballroom wig has been with me (the wig part replaced several times) since about 1983. It started off life as a flower pot turned into a Champagne bucket! Kevin cleverly sorted out the “firing mechanism” that made every ballroom “Go with a bang!”

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Peter at Nottingham 2008-09

The costumes have historical connections- The plumes and appliques on mine started life at The Folies Bergere in the ’50’s, were sold to Holiday On Ice International and then to me. The crinolines date back to The Royal Opera House in the 1940’s. I’ve looked after these bits of costume for many years, and now the V&A is going to look after them for a very long time into the future. I hope there will be panto still going in that far off future of flying cars and day trips to the Moon!

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My Ballroom, showing the appliques from The Folies Bergere.

Sad to see them go, but very happy and proud that a little bit of Peter & I get to stay together- and who knows, they may well spark a bit of attention now and again if they go on display! We all love a bit of attention!

“You know what dear? I’m SO beautiful, I look just like an Oil Painting”

“I’ve thought that too dear”

“Really?”

“yes. You’re old,and cracked, and ought to be hung. In a museum!”

Farewell frocks. We’ve had a ball!