A Conversation with Edith Head
Hollywood glamour revisited
This article is from 2007.
Hollywood costume designer Edith Head worked on almost 500 films in her 54-year career. She dressed Mae West, Dorothy Lamour and Barbara Stanwyck in their most iconic outfits. She played with the big boys at Paramount (and later Universal) and her onyx ‘bangs’ and tinted sunglasses created a stereotype for film couturiers which was all schoolmarm cool and insider arrogance. And yet we still know so little of this diminutive but huge talent.
Edited down from a much longer show, Head biographer Paddy Calistro and lookalike actress Susan Claassen’s play goes some way to correcting this. Presented as a kind of An Audience With . . . that she could have done around the time of her last film (Dead Man Don’t Wear Plaid in 1981) Claassen does a near perfect impersonation of Head as she remembers her life lived in the bubble of Tinseltown. It’s a moving, seamless, beautifully played portrayal of a woman wrestling with a lifetime of memories and regrets. Surrounded by photographs of the women and the dresses that made her reputation, Claassen and Calistro paint Head as a sad figure caught in a wasteland of celebrity adulation and personal reductionism. For anyone interested in the history of fashion, this is a must. (Paul Dale)
Assembly@Hill Street Theatre, 623 3030, until 27 Aug (not 15), 6.15pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).