News Story

CFT’s Projects, Events and Heritage team tell us about our new exhibition ‘Dressing the Tudors’ running in the Festival Theatre foyer alongside The Other Boleyn Girl.

Why Dressing the Tudors?

Curating an exhibition can seem a bit counter-intuitive for a theatre: we are not a museum or gallery, and our costumes are usually reserved for actors on the stage. But the Tudors have a magnetic appeal – many remember learning about the Tudors in school or have been drawn to the scandals and tragedies of Henry VIII’s court in novels like The Other Boleyn Girl. Its iconic fashion is perhaps as recognisable as it’s protagonists.

So, when Philippa Gregory’s bestselling novel was confirmed as the opening production for Festival 2024, we had the idea for an exciting costume display in the foyer. We hoped the costumes would whet the appetite for the world of the Tudors, allowing audiences to get up close and personal with pieces from the archives and gain insight into the incredible work of theatre designers.

So how did we put together the exhibition?

With the help of our Wardrobe Team, we selected four Tudor-inspired costumes from the CFT Archive and hired two from our industry partners at The National Theatre and Shakespeare’s Globe. We were delighted to work with the nearby Northbrook College in Worthing to feature two costumes made by first year costume students – the future designers for the stage.

We also took inspiration from the creatives working on The Other Boleyn Girl, designing information boards that give insight into the themes and costumes in Lucy Bailey’s production. We were delighted that designer Joanna Parker allowed us to feature her costume designs, alongside fabric swatches and props in the exhibition.

What were the challenges?

A project like this truly takes a village. With a physical exhibition we need platforms and lighting to make the costumes look their best, the costumes needed expert dressing and care, and the information boards needed designing and printing. The start of the season is a very busy time of year for CFT’s teams, so we are indebted to our colleagues across multiple departments for pulling together to make it happen.

Another consideration was that the exhibition takes place in our public foyer, and museum-grade costume cases are costly (we’re looking to raise funds for these in future). We needed to ensure the designers and organisations we worked with were happy with this, and that the protection of the costumes was our top priority.

How did it all turn out?

You tell us! ‘Dressing the Tudors’ runs in the Festival Theatre foyer from 19 April – 13 May. Delve deeper with a Guided Exhibition Tour with the curator.