Howard, Pamela (7 of 11) An Oral History of Theatre Design
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2006-06-26, 2006-07-13, 2006-08-09, 2006-08-14
Various locations, London
Howard, Pamela 1939- (speaker, female)
Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)
Part 7: Comment about joining BR. Mention of BJ’s modern dress Hamlet; Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies. Story about meeting BJ. Comments about PS; influence of PS on PH. Mention of actors at BR: AF; Brian Cox; FJ, assistant to PS and teacher to PH. Comment that this was a time of change in theatre. [0:10:12] A typical day as a bucket cleaner. Story about the sudden death of Jimmy, guardian of the theatre workshops. Brief description of the process of building and painting scenery. Description of how paint was mixed; poison paint pigments that caused mice to turn blue; visits to the wardrobe. Story about PH’s surprise when she began to be paid to work at BR. Mention of ‘As You Like It’ [AYLI], the first play PH designed at BR; employment formalities. [0:20:49] Wearing gloves to get married 1959 to hide stained hands. Blue theatre overalls. [0:23:00] Feelings about wanting to leave home. Amount of time PH spent at BR. Application for a scholarship to go to SSA. The sense of being in a declining theatre; PH’s design for ‘Dandy Dick’ by Pinero. How age difference between PH and sisters affects her memory of them. The difference between people born before and after the war; being close to her sisters today; their lives. Their names: Jennifer Joy [JH] and Vivien Irene [VH] [0:29:48] PH’s social life; youth clubs; projects; making exhibitions; piano. Links to musical interests in PH’s opera work; link between colour and sound. [0:34:49] Early relationships with boys; meeting them as adults. Remark that boys thought PH was exotic. Getting married at 19. Story about going to the Malvern or Lickey Hills. [0:37:48] Meeting first husband. Remark about how PH found herself as a ‘Honeywell Wife’. Length of the marriage. Description of first husband’s family background; comparison to PH’s family. Continuing links with first husband; his role as a father and grandfather. Making models whilst visiting husband’s family in Southend. First husband’s name Michael Mills [MM]. Further description of MM’s family. Remark about tracing the growth of a community. PH’s decision not to use husband’s name. Remarks about ballroom dancing. [0:50:48] Story about making circular skirt out of felt. Description of clothes worn to go to a ‘Hop’. PH’s involvement in helping to decorate themed parties. Story about a party PH held for her children. [0:55:28] Feelings about being engaged whilst studying at SSA; being at a place whilst it is in transition. The era preceding PH’s time at SSA: ‘the mud-coloured era’. Mention of Frank Auerbach, William Coldstream, Robert Medley. Extreme appearances of some of the students. Mention of Aubrey Beardsley. PH’s naivety.[0:59:05] Others in PH’s group at SSA: Yolanda Sonnabend; Philip Prowse [PP]; Ian Spurling [IS]. Story about IS being dropped from the Royal Ballet by Kenneth McMillan. Contrast between PH’s ‘bourgeois’ life and life at SSA. How PH benefited from being at SSA. [1:01:28] MM’s feelings about PH attending SSA; about her work in France. Remark about art as a transferable skill. [1:03:34] Comment about PH’s ovarian cysts; her hysterectomy aged 27. The decision to adopt two children; why this was considered unconventional. Remark that MM is a wonderful father. Comment about PH and motherhood. Working as a freelance theatre designer; only being as good as last design [1:05:37] Two sides to PH’s career: practice and teaching. [1:06:10] Story about how PH found a French pen-friend, Arianne. Description of how PH saved up to go and visit Arianne. Story about going for tea at the house of theatre designer, George Vukovich [GV] who had worked with Diaghilev. GV’s advice that PH should attend SSA. Interview for SSA with Nicholas Georgiadis [NG]. Changing relationship with NG. Memories of travelling to Paris on a plane.
Life story interview with Pamela Howard (1939-), theatre designer.