Vivien Leigh at Nymans: Part 2

This is the second of two posts detailing the private view of the V&A’s Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives traveling exhibition, which took place last Saturday at Nymans in Sussex. You can read part 1 here.

To kick off the celebration, speeches were given by Nikki Caxton of Nymans, and Keith Lodwick, the curator in charge of the Vivien Leigh archive at the V&A. Keith really deserves kudos for his ongoing interest in the subject and dedication to publicizing Vivien and her work to a wider audience. It is largely thanks to his efforts that Vivien has enjoyed an extended moment in the spotlight these past few years. If you read this, cheers, Keith!

Although Nymans is a stately home, the exhibition space itself is rather small. In this way it works a bit better than Treasurer’s House because most of the objects on display in Vivien Leigh are small and two-dimensional (photos, letters, etc) and fit into , so the whole exhibition feels more intimate. In terms of selection, Keith has chosen objects that cover the spectrum of Vivien’s life and career — choosing 100 objects out of 10,000 possible choices is no easy feat. If you saw the show in York, you’ll see many of the same things here with a few additions such as a contact sheet of photographs taken of Vivien in 1963, and the portrait (my favorite!) of Vivien and Larry Olivier taken by James Abbe Jr in 1939, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. My favorite part of the exhibition continues to be the projection of stereoscopic slides that were taken with Vivien’s own camera. With the provided 3-D glasses, her world really does come to life, as if you could step right into the photos. The genius behind the digitization is Denis Pellerin of The London Stereoscopic Company. Here’s hoping he’ll get permission from the V&A to do more of them!

I was pleasantly surprised that basically the entire Farrington clan — all three grandsons and many of their children — turned up to the event. It was nice to see Vivien’s family showing an interest in what Keith is doing with the treasure trove they sold to the museum. Tarquin Olivier was also in attendance with his lovely wife Zelfa. Most exciting of all the guests was Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer! I mentioned on the Facebook page a few months ago that Natalie is working with Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait for a possible TV project, so I was very happy to meet and chat with her. She’s apparently been to see the archive at Blyth House. It’s wonderful to know she is taking such an active interest in research.

Here is part 2 of the photos from the event. Some were taken by the wonderful Lucy Bolton (thanks, Lucy!).

Natalie Dormer and Kendra Bean at Nymans

With Game of Thrones actress Natalie Dormer

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 3.04.52 PM

With Robbie. Tarquin Olivier (left) and Jonathan Farrington (right) in background.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Denis Pellerin of the London Stereoscopic Company is the genius behind the 3-D stereoscopic slideshow, arguably the best part of the exhibition.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Curator of Theatre and Performance at the V&A, Keith Lodwick.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Robbie and Kendra with Tarquin and Zelfa Olivier. We were actually talking about Ava Gardner here.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Well-designed wall panels.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

The two Cleopatra plays, 1951–52, including a set design by Roger Furse and two Angus McBean photos.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Oliver Messel’s design work for Caesar and Cleopatra (1945).

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Chatting with Sophie Farrington and her sister.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Vivien’s Crystal Dove Award, received for her performance in Ship of Fools.

Vivien Leigh exhibition at Nymans

Terence Pepper

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 3.11.13 PM

3-D slide show. Robbie and I gave up our glasses.

Natalie Dormer and Kendra Bean at Nymans

With Natalie Dormer and Keith Lodwick.

IMG_0065

Exhibition programmes!

IMG_0074

Terence Pepper, Lucy Bolton, Richard and Robbie

IMG_0087

Robbie and Natalie Dormer view the introductory panel for the exhibition.

Artifacts from Hamlet at Elsinore, 1937

Cloak worn by Vivien in Caesar and Cleopatra (1951–52)

IMG_0103

“Becoming Scarlett” is a popular catch phrase for text panels and book chapters and essays.

IMG_0104

Designs for Caesar and Cleopatra by Roger Furse.

IMG_0108

My favorite photo of the Oliviers (left) by James Abbe, Jr. On loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

Gown designed by Yves Saint-Laurent for Dior, worn by Vivien in Duel of Angels

Contact sheet of photographs taken of Vivien at Eaton Square in 1963.

A Streetcar Named Desire, Nymans, Sussex

Streetcar

Headdress designed by Oliver Messel and worn by Vivien Leigh in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1937.

The Farrington family outside Nymans

With film professor Lucy Bolton and curator Terence Pepper

Vivien Leigh: Public Faces, Private Lives is on at Nymans until September 4, 2016. If you have a chance to get down to Sussex, it’s worth the trip.


Originally published at Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.