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Ladies in Black– Life is a Work of Art in the Making at MTC

Ladies in Black

All hail the Ladies in Black, MTC presents the QTC production

Have you ever had a dress that changed your world?

Lisa Miles believes she has found hers in the Model Gowns department of the prestigious department store, where she recently gained a job on her own merits.

Like all of the gorgeous haute couture dresses on display, the fabulous frock has a name, the Lisette, and the lovely Lisa longs for the day she might be able to make it her own.

Fashion meets art, and life is a work of art in the making, a sentiment entirely proved as the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) starts its 2016 theatrical season in a dancing and singing celebratory mode, presenting the brilliant production by the Queensland Theatre Company (QTC) of Ladies in Black.

A truly delightful heart-warming and very simple story, it is based on Madeleine St John’s well-known novel.

This delightful life-affirming story, one imagined with marvellous music and meaningful lyrics by Tim Finn was a huge hit in Brizzie last year, with its smoothly operating set and costumes by award winning designer Gabriela Tylesova.

She was inspired to produce garments with that feel good 50’s Dior feel, which show off our Ladies in Black’s figures and their considerable style to great effect.

Lisa 2

Sarah Morrison as Lisa, with Carita Farrer Spencer as Mrs Miles in Ladies in Black, a QTC production presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company, 2016

It is musical theatre at its best, a laugh out loud comedic gem punctuated by moments of serious heart rendering emotion, as the Ladies in Black are brought to vibrant life by an exceptional ensemble cast.

They expertly craft their characters, infusing them with a great deal of love and understanding.

Directed by Simon Phillips, this very special piece of performance art brilliantly captures the Aussie psyche and social attitudes that prevailed during the 1950’s in Australia.

Set during the era when Australia was on the verge of becoming multi-cultural, everyone drops more Aussie slang phrases than Nino Culotta managed to do in his novel ‘they’re a weird mob, published in 1957.

This was a legendary social commentary, which highlighted the attitude of men belonging to the working class of that period.

Here the alternate view espoused by St John offers the women’s viewpoint and it has been beautifully translated by Carolyn Burns.

She imaginatively met morphs our Ladies in Black through her rare insight of who they all are, into our modern world providing connections we can all invest in.

Lisa Miles (Sarah Morrison) is an unworldly young girl in her late teens with a delightful naivety to her nature. She’s longing for the time when soon ‘I will be me’.

She has changed her name from ‘Lesley’ to Lisa in anticipation of moving forward, and as a mark of her leaving a suffocating life at home behind.

Lisa in Ladies in Black

Sarah Morrison, Lisa, Ladies in Black, a QTC production presented by the Melbourne Theatre Company, 2016

Lisa is working at the fictional ‘Goode’s’ over the Christmas season while she is waiting for the results of her exams for the ‘leaving’ certificate, hoping the results will give her a chance to spread her wings.

She’s hoping with all her heart to gain enough marks to go to Sydney University, despite the outraged objections of her father (Greg Stone).

Like most of the men of his age (and still some in ours), he earnestly believes that ‘higher’ education should only be available to men.

Out in the ‘real world’ Lisa soon discovers that some of her female colleagues at Goode’s are in their own way, all headstrong heroines not wanting to bow down to convention. Which way will she choose to go? Well it will all depend on those exam results!

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Dominique Sirop Collection at NGV – Bountiful Benefaction

Madame Gres 1

Grès, Paris fashion house, France 1942–1988, Madame Grès designer, France 1903–1993, Evening dress, 1980 France, silk (jersey, chiffon), The Dominique Sirop Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Purchased with funds donated by Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty in memory of Mr Harold Campbell-Pretty, 2015

Fashionable attire is a footnote to culture and a changing and eternal form of human expression. It dictates and reflects the changes and concerns of a society in any one place at any one time.

Since economics most often determine the development of the societies in question, major art and design institutions cannot neglect its study, as it is an integral aspect of the evolution of art, design and style.

Among a small selection of glorious haute couture costume on display at the National Gallery of Victoria recently for an important announcement, was a selection of very rare 1920’s-era gowns, gloriously draped Grecian-style sheaths by Parisian designer Madame Grès (1903-1993) who said “For a dress to survive from one era to the next, it must be marked with an extreme purity.”

Madame Grès renowned for having a Midas touch, turned ordinary textiles into glorious examples of Greek sculpture, her couture fashion house in Paris between the wars labelled ‘the most intellectual place in Europe to buy clothes’.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle understood the best and happiest life for any individual, was when the State revealed the value of new objects of desire and educated its citizens to appreciate them. It was all about giving each individual increased opportunity for self-development and a greater capacity for the enjoyment of life

Aristotle believed in a democracy good character was an indispensable condition and that the chief determinant of happiness in itself, should be a goal for all human doing.

Krystyna Campbell Pretty Detail

Krystyna Campbell-Pretty poses with a selection from The Dominique Sirop Collection, she purchased in memory of her husband Mr Harold Campbell-Pretty 2015

He talked specifically about benefaction, when a good man does many things for the sake of his friends, his country and, the greater good.

A fine example of giving without expected reward, except perhaps for the broad smiles on other people’s faces, took place at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) on February 9, 2016 when Director Tony Ellwood announced the largest acquisition of French haute couture in the NGV’s history and one of the world’s most ‘sought after fashion collections’.

Melbourne-based philanthropist, lover of the arts and a champion of fashionable attire, Krystyna Campbell-Pretty donated $1.4 million dollars of funds to secure the collection in memory of her husband Harold Campbell-Pretty (1943-2014).

Krystyna Campbell-Pretty related how her husband Harold Campbell-Pretty had grown up with a love of clothes and couture, influenced by the many talented amateur seamstresses in his large extended household.

He not only loved beautiful clothes Krystyna told us, but also understood his wife’s view that ‘fashion is multi-dimensional’.

Molyneux 1

Molyneux, Paris fashion house, France est. 1919, Edward H. Molyneux designer, England 1891–Monaco 1974, Evening dress, 1949 winter, silk (taffeta), The Dominique Sirop Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Purchased with funds donated by Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty in memory of Mr Harold Campbell-Pretty, 2015

Krystana believes that fashion encompasses design, artistic and construction skills of the highest level, social history, society’s values and attitudes to the roles of both sexes’.

It is a fitting tribute, The Dominique Sirop Collection of Costume represents society’s fashionable concerns 1800 – 2003, the majority falling within the period 1890-1960.

It includes some eleven (11) gowns by the renowned Christian Dior, including one couture number from his first collection, twelve (12) works by Coco Chanel, eight (8) works by Jeanne Lanvin, eleven (11) works by Madeleine Vionnet, and above all, three (3) works by the man considered the ‘father of haute couture’ English born Paris based designer Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895) who dominated Parisian fashion during the latter half of the nineteenth century.

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Passionate Pursuits

Fashion Elixir Quick Snippets of Culture Carolyns Conversations


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