Wednesday, December 25, 2019

439. Ricketts's Costumes, but When and Where?

After Ricketts's death, Thomas Sturge Moore and Gordon Bottomley (among others) tried to take stock of the artist's work. Bottomley tried to establish for which stage performances Ricketts had designed sets and costumes. In a letter from Sturge Moore to Bottomley (probably received by the latter on 25 May 1932) Moore admits that his memories of some performances are not clear.

Charles Ricketts, design (1915) for The Three Women
in W.B. Yeats, On Baile's Strand

T.S. Moore wrote in answer to some of Bottomley's querries:

I also saw the King’s Baile’s Strand at the Avenue Theatre I think, which was nearly entirely by C.R. with I fancy a painted scene[,] but my memory is not good. Anyway there was some extraordinary and very pleasing colour grouping. I cannot understand my memory for my one dim dim recollection is of an outdoor seaside scene[,] and the whole of the play takes place in an interior[:] was it perhaps not Baile’s Strand but another play and if so which? I remember the kind of greens and browns and the effect of the costumes[,] but nothing else. You see I had seen the play before[,] whichever it was[,] and was noting chiefly the picture. Was it perhaps Synge’s Deirdre? I think it must have been. But things I see only once I never remember well.
[Transcribed by, and courtesy of, John Aplin]

The two plays were on the repertoire at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and were performed by the Irish Players. Every year they made a tour to London, where Ricketts and Shannon attended the performances and apparently Moore as well. One play was by W.B Yeats, On Baile's Strand (first performed in 1904) and the other was by J.M. Synge, Deirdre of the Sorrows (1910). But Ricketts did not design the costumes for the first performances, but for a later tour, which in some reference works is dated May-June 1915. Ifan Kyrle Fletcher published a 'Chronological List of Charles Ricketts's Productions' in Theatre Notebook, Autumn 1967, mentioning May-June 1915 for the re-enactments of these two plays and a third of Synge, The Well of the Saints. Some of the costumes for these are illustrated and commented on by Richard Allen Cave in Charles Ricketts' Stage Designs (1987). Eric Binnie also discusses the performances in The Theatrical Designs of Charles Ricketts (1985) and he quotes Ricketts's diary about the rehearsals.

However, the dates are nowhere specified. Luckily there is 'The British Newspapers Archive' and with a thorough search the dates of the tour of the Irish Theatre can be found. Their London season started on May 10 and ended on June 5, 1915.

The Globe, 5 June 1915, page 2
The performances did not take place in the Avenue Theatre as Moore thought, but in the Little Theatre. The season consisted of four weeks with different plays on the repertoire each week. The program with the plays of Synge and Yeats was the last of the four and ran from Monday, May 31 until Saturday, June 5.

The Stage, 27 May 1915, page 19
They were performed on Friday and Saturday (on the last day there was both a matinee and an evening performance).

Charles Ricketts, design (1915) for Deirdre in J.M. Synge, Deirdre of the Sorrows