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Picasso’s blue period recreated in the Lace Market

When a London gallery decided to bring a Picasso painting to life, who else would they turn to but some volunteers from a small Nottingham theatre? The Courtauld Gallery’s current exhibition, Becoming Picasso: Paris 1901explores the year that a 19-year old Picasso broke through onto the art scene and brings together a range of the artist’s early works. As part of this exhibition they decided to hold a series of evening events that could bring the paintings to life.

Linda Croston hard at work making the fabric for the costume

The Courtauld contacted The Lace Market Theatre and commissioned a costume of Picasso’s work Seated Harlequin. The theatre’s wardrobe department has a proud reputation and large stock of costumes available, using them for the theatres 14 yearly productions as well as hiring them for weddings, schools, TV and film productions and universities. The costume department, like the rest of the theatre’s staff, is run purely by volunteers – 11 women and three men – and they agreed to take on this special commission.

Jane Herring makes the ruff and cuffs for the harlequin costume

“The Seated Harlequin is in blue and black, which are not usual harlequin colours,” says Jane Herring, of the Lace Market Theatre. “We agreed to make the costume specially. Who could turn down such an opportunity?”

Making the chequer board fabric from scratch was painstaking and time consuming.  Linda Croston started with plain blue fabric and plain black.  Some 8 hours later she had produced about 3 metres of the blue/black fabric required, and from this Jane produced the finished costume which was also about 8 hours’ work.

“It was well worth the trouble,” says Jane. “It was such a delight to see our costume come alive.”

The finished product at The Courtauld

The skills of the Lace Market Theatre’s costume department will next be on display for their next production, The Taming of the Shrew, which runs from 24-27 April. Tickets are available from their website.


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