Motley Theatre Design Group

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Motley was the name of the theatre design firm made up of three English designers, sisters Margaret Harris (known as "Percy") (1904–2000) and Sophie Harris (1900–1966), and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot (1902–1993). The name derives from the word 'Motley' as used by Shakespeare. The group won two Tony Awards for costume design and was nominated seven additional times.

They met at art school in the 1920s and went on to great success as John Gielgud's designers during the 1930s. They started teaching theatre design at Michel Saint-Denis's London Theatre Studio (1936–1939), the first time a design course had been incorporated into a drama school in the UK. Margaret Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery spent World War II in the United States, designing for Broadway, and Harris also worked with Charles Eames on his moulded plywood airplane parts. Sophie Harris, now married to George Devine, and mother of their child Harriet, stayed in the UK designing for stage and screen. After the war Margaret Harris returned to the UK, and both sisters once again joined Saint-Denis, teaching design at the Old Vic Theatre School (1947–1953). Elizabeth Montgomery stayed in the United States designing for many Broadway productions. All three continued to design under the name "Motley" for both stage and screen.

The Motley design team were closely associated with the work of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre especially 1948-59. Productions included: 1948 Troilus and Cressida in which Paul Scofield played Troilus, the 1953 Antony and Cleopatra and 1957 As You Like It both featuring Peggy Ashcroft, The Merry Wives of Windsor in 1955 with Anthony Quayle, Hamlet in 1958 with Michael Redgrave in the title role and the 1959 King Lear with Charles Laughton. [1]

In 1966, Margaret Harris founded Motley Theatre Design Course which continues to this day, now under the directorship of designer Alison Chitty (OBE).[2]

Work (Broadway selected)[edit]

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