The stars of theatreland were out in force this week for the opening of the new theatre and performance galleries at London's V&A. Having been dusted down and moved from the rather dingier Theatre Museum in Covent Garden into an airy suite of rooms, the assorted props, costumes, playbills and trashed guitars looked resplendent in their new home.
Guests congregated around the dramatic centrepiece of a giant latex and fibreglass rhinoceros (last seen on stage at the Royal Court) while desperately pretending not to look for evidence of their own landmark performances in the shiny new display cases. There was wine and canapés and exhibits to suit every taste – from highbrow (a Shakespeare First Folio, a prompt book from Handel's 1720 opera Radamisto) to haute couture, including Mick Jagger's slimline, chest-baring catsuit worn on the Stones' 1972 tour and Jimmy Page's even tinier satin jumpsuit: so small, I was told, that it needs to be displayed on a child mannequin.
The great theatre director Peter Hall was the guest of honour, giving the opening address and proudly twinkling around the room with his daughters Rebecca (wearing a quirky black fedora Woody Allen would surely have approved of) and Emma on his arms. Kevin Spacey, who will soon be employing Rebecca at the Old Vic in Sam Mendes's Bridge Project, talked shop with the assembled clan while Penelope Wilton chinwagged with the theatre designer Alison Chitty.
Erin O'Connor, one of the museum's trustees and looking every inch the elegant Fifties vamp in black dress, leopard-print pumps and red lipstick, marvelled at (and towered over) Margot Fonteyn's bird-sized tutu, before striking a few balletic poses of her own and heading across the galleries to chat to milliner Stephen Jones (whose hats are the subject of another exhibition, just down the corridor). Meanwhile, Sam West, sporting an extraordinary Victorian ensemble of frock coat, cravat and toothbrush moustache, had the party buzzing about which new role might have necessitated such theatrical facial hair.Reuse content