Annals' Exhibition Opens In London


retrospective of set and costume designer Michael Annals' contribution to British design, "Observe and Show: The Theatre Art of Michael Annals," will be held at the Theatre Museum in London from November 27 through October 2004.

Michael Annals was 26 and only four years into his career in 1964 when his setting and costumes for The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Peter Shaffer's philosophical epic about Pizarro's conquest of Peru, put him in the forefront of new British designers that included John Bury and Jocelyn Herbert.

Annals's golden Inca sun metamorphosing from a Spanish crucifix dominated the bare open stage of the new Chichester Festival Theatre, where Sir Laurence Olivier was creating the fledgling National Theatre. It became the play's indelible icon.

The production came to Broadway in 1965, and for the next 20 years the designer alternated between London and New York, working also at the Stratford Festival in Canada.

He designed opera for Glyndebourne, Covent Garden, and New York City Opera, and his one film, Tony Richardson's Joseph Andrews starring Ann Margret, was nominated for a British Academy Award for costume design.

He had a series of memorable collaborations with the director Michael Blakemore and the playwright Michael Frayn that included the original 1982 production of Noises Off. Annals was only 52 when he died in 1990.

"Observe and Show" includes some 40 of Annals' original drawings and models, as well as the original masks for Royal Hunt, constructed by John Gunter. The masks were a gift to the Theatre Museum of Dodger Stage Holding.

The exhibition was organized by Arnold Wengrow, a contributing editor of USITT's journal Theatre Design and Technology, who has also written for Entertainment Design. The exhibition is accompanied by a 72-page full-color catalog, written by Wengrow, with recollections of Annals by Blakemore, Shaffer, opera director John Cox, and actor Ian McKellen.

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