Charles James: Beyond Fashion – The Met’s 2014 Fashion Exhibition

I was so excited when I heard the announcement that the fashion exhibition leading the way next year by New York’s Costume Institute is ‘Charles James: Beyond Fashion’.

‘Ballgowns’, 1948 – Photo By Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photograph by Cecil Beaton, Beaton / Vogue / Condé Nast Archive. Copyright (c) Condé Nast

I love Charles James, and have a huge appreciation for his wonderful couture designs (even though as a person he was a little much at times).

Here is a short video clip from Vogue below:

WWD sum it up perfectly with their report.

“He really is a one-of-a-kind designer,” said Harold Koda, curator in charge of the Costume Institute. “Even if you look through the history of French haute couture and all the English couture designers, James stands out as a very idiosyncratic personality and artist and one of the few designers who, in his own lifetime, felt that his work transcended the medium.”

Thus the exhibition’s title. “When we say ‘Beyond Fashion,’ it’s not to disparage fashion, but it was actually James’ tentative title for his own autobiography, because he felt that the research — studies of anatomy, the way he resolved sculptural shapes with his tailoring and ballgowns — was something that transcended trends and fashion. He wanted to use fashion and push fashion even further than what it was as a commercial enterprise.”

The exhibition will run from 8th May to 10th August 2014 and will feature some 100 pieces by Charles James from his entire career.

For more information on Charles James, have a Voguepedia page on him.

The Telegraph also has a nice article on the exhibition too (with some great images!).

I personally didn’t really enjoy the Punk theme of the Met Gala this year. And working on it with celebrities was rather challenging. It’s not easy for everyone to carry off the Punk look. Then again, I’m about as Punk as Charlotte York from Sex and the City.

Couture glamour on the other hand? I find myself terribly excited! I’ll bet lots of designers, stylists and PRs are too.

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My Thoughts: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical – The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

So, back in June, the week it opened, I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, directed by Sam Mendes, at The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Admittedly I was intrigued to see how the production would fare, especially because of the publicity surrounding the amount spent on the set design (reportedly millions!)

Given that we had booked tickets for the later performance at 7:30pm, we had hoped that the audience would consist of fewer children – at least that was the plan! In contrast, our hearts sank at the congestion surrounding the entrance to the theatre and the foyer. Children everywhere! There was what could be described as violent bustles of children’s armies ignorantly barricading the area, making it impossible to simply navigate ourselves over to the desk (for a programme and refreshments) and then to the entrance for our seats. Even the ushers seemed perplexed by this lack of organisation and appeared slightly thrown. I don’t know which was worse, the shouting children or the children dressed as though they were going to a nightclub (not the time nor place for that story). Either way, we hoped the evening would look up.

Now I shan’t regurgitate the plot as most of you already know the story by Roald Dahl, and I’m sure you’ve read journalist reviews. Plus I don’t want to bore you!

Though, was it what I was expecting? To be honest I’m not too sure what I was expecting. When I saw Matilda I was rather intrigued and absorbed by this interpretation of the tale. But for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? I suppose I didn’t anticipate it moving so slowly. I actually found myself wishing for the interval just so I could wake up a little with a sugar boost of ice cream. Quentin Letts, of The Daily Mail, described Act One “as slow as cold treacle”, and sadly I have to agree.

It was probably unwise to have hoped for some of the original classic songs by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley to appear, but I had an open mind for the music here by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman; as I usually do when I see stage interpretations. However, whilst there were certainly a variety of music styles, the songs didn’t do much for me, and in my opinion, didn’t move the story along that successfully either. It was more stop start then let’s take you on a musical journey.

The audience were not helping either. We seemed to be surrounded by excitable children, who felt fit to laugh at every moment. Then we had people around us who decided to bring the loudest food ever, rustling to their own tune. There was almost an argument at one point. Some elderly ladies in front had had quite enough of their inconsideration. Thankfully it did not get that far. I had come to watch on stage action, not off…

As everyone who knows me knows, any references to Germany and you have my attention. So naturally my attention was gaged when I saw the Gloop’s, and I was even more amused by the little Bavarian style song composed for them. They were charming (and to be honest my favourite family).

Now for Act 2.

To get it out of the way, I found the Oompa Loompas too bizarre. There, that’s all I have to say about them.

Douglas Hodge was marvellous and I cannot fault him at all. He really brought Willy Wonka alive in a way that’s true to the original Roald Dahl Story. This interpretation is darker than the film we all remember, and this is felt throughout the musical, referring itself instead to the tone and morals of the original tale. To quote The Guardian’s Michael Billington, “Dahl’s book is a morality play in which vice is punished and virtue gets its edible reward”. And boy do these children have vices; and they’re frankly quite disturbed!

Furthermore, the show continued to tell the tale we all know well, captivating the audience more with it’s incredibly intricate and sophisticated set and costumes (by Mark Thompson) than storytelling.

The greatest reaction came from the blissful sighs sounded by the audience (seemingly perking up) as the infamous chimes echoed the theatre introducing ‘Pure Imagination’. It was the moment we had all been waiting for. For me, it was the best moment of the show. Douglas Hodge did a fantastic job. Not to mention the set captured the magical quality of the moment, like we were flying with Charlie and Willy Wonka. This was the highlight. Though I had to wait all the way until the very end to get to it.

Therefore, I could completely understand the mixed reviews from critics as I left the theatre. I still didn’t quite know what I thought of it. I have seen plenty of theatre and musical theatre shows, but still this wouldn’t be one I’d remember for the better, I don’t think. It wouldn’t be on my list of recommendations but I certainly appreciate the hard work that has gone into it. Maybe the hard work went too much in one direction? There are only so many ways the set design and costumes can carry a story.

Lastly, would I see it again? No. But I would by no means stop someone from seeing it if they wished to. That’s what’s great about entertainment. Everyone has their own tastes and preferences. This one just didn’t do it for me.

Below is the official trailer for the musical!

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I’m back! – Determined to get this blog working again

Ok, it has been an awfully long time since I’ve updated this blog. A combination of factors, particularly medical ones.

I’m determined to try and work at it though and use it therapeutically. (Or maybe not so depending on my relationship with WordPress).

I’ve decided to branch out and cover many things in this blog as I am a person who generally likes discussing many things. Most notably, there will be a section on ‘health’ as recommended by medical professionals I’m seeing. My mood and chronic pain pretty much dictate my life, therefore I want my blog to be representative of my life and my fluctuating state of mind as part of the whole picture – if that makes sense?

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of the theatre and have been going consistently since I was 6 years old (in other words, a long time). So I thought it bizarre that I had never thought to write down my experiences. I’m a little disappointed with myself to be honest. But it doesn’t make sense to comment on them now, when I’ve seen them quite far in the past. Unless I get my memory back and feel I have something worth telling, as I’ve really seen some great shows (many more than once).

I intend to change this though and share everything I’m seeing here, both for my benefit and maybe yours too!

Back in June, I saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so I’ve decided to start my reviewing from there. I’m just finishing writing it up and I’ll have it posted soon. Then I have The Phantom of the Opera which I saw again last week. Top Hat I’m seeing next week, and then Les Miserables again in September. I had hoped to see A Doll’s House and Sweet Bird of Youth but sadly I doubt I’ll be able to before they close.

So hopefully some terribly good things coming up – If my mood permits. Today has not been a good day. That post will be coming up soon too. Trust me to end on a miserable note. Sorry?


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Costume worn by Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, in The King’s Speech, 2010




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Costume worn by Colin Firth as George VI, in The King’s Speech, 2010



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Costume worn by Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth, in The King’s Speech, 2010





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