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LIVING BY DESIGN: Oliver Messel

Retired in Barbados because of ill health, this famous costume and set designer was instrumental in building the first houses in Mustique in theatrical, colonial style - ideally suited to the Caribbean - using stone and cement in the most imaginative way. 
I was frequently a guest on the island and went to Colin Glenconner's parties.  After Oliver's demise, I worked on the Great House and subsequently Alumbrera (see next week's blog) 
The Great House, Mustique designed by Oliver Messel
Princess Margaret at Colin Glenconner birthday party








'The Red Shoes' with Moira Shearer









Messel belonged to a generation who was not afraid of prettiness, nor indeed of colour, as was proved in the movie 'The Red Shoes' with Moira Shearer - his designs have lost none of their clarity and freshness, even more so in 'Caesar and Cleopatra' with Claude Rains as Caeser and the ravishing Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra. 

Daphnis & Chloe

This 1940's approach was also manifest in the Frederick Ashton [wit and charm personified] Ravel ballet 'Daphne & Chloe' [1951], danced by Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes, with costumes and decor by John Craxton. The ballet was recreated in 2004 (when I saw it) and it had a lucidity and clarity reminiscent of Ancient Greece, of mythology, far from today's blighted country now held to ransom.


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