Red Ladies Lead Image Landscape - Credit: Jessica Jordan Wrench

Red Ladies, Acclaimed ‘Theatrical Demonstration’ Comes To The V&a Museum

Part of the opening day of the museum’s Performance Festival, the production once described by the Guardian as “the kind of absurd, inspired happening that makes the city come alive” returns for its first outing since 2015.

Award-winning performance company Clod Ensemble brings the iconic Red Ladies to the V&A Museum’s Performance Festival.

A group of identically-dressed women will rendezvous at the museum to re-map the architecture, histories, objects and narratives of the V&A. With reconnaissance missions taking place throughout the building, the V&A’s Raphael Court will become the Red Ladies’ temporary HQ and the stage for reassembled fragments of their celebrated ‘theatrical demonstration’.

Red Ladies features a chorus of women dressed in red headscarves, red stilettos, black trench coats and sunglasses. They sit, they wait, they play the harmonica; they observe, they lament, they map, they change, they remember. They count surveillance cameras; they watch the watchers.

Credit: Manuel Vason

Whenever and wherever they gather, Red Ladies is a startling piece of non-narrative performance – a visual poem that invites the audience to watch and listen as if observing a shifting landscape, weather system or rare species of wildlife. Almost twenty years on from their first London mission and a near-decade since they were last seen in the UK, the Red Ladies re-emerge into a world transformed.

Who are they and what do they want?

Red Ladies is one of Clod Ensemble’s most celebrated productions. The production’s near-twenty-year history has seen Red Ladies receive critical acclaim, tour internationally and headquarter at some of the UK’s most prestigious performance spaces.

Red Ladies was developed at the National Theatre Studio in 2005. Since then it has taken entire city districts as its stage both in the UK and abroad. Westminster, Trafalgar Square, London’s Southbank, Warwick, Oxford, Porto, the beaches of Margate – all have been the sites for Red Ladies missions.

This iteration takes the Red Ladies into a new moment and a new environment entirely – the V&A’s extraordinary site of memory, ideas and possibility.

Clod Ensemble Context

November 2023 saw Clod Ensemble combine with Nu Civilisation Orchestra to deliver two sell-out performances of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady at Shoreditch Town Hall. A visionary production of Charles Mingus’ 1963 album of the same name, the show was declared one of the ten best dance productions of the year by The Guardian. Red Ladies is the first major public performance work from the company since the triumph of The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.

Supported by a significant grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Clod Ensemble launched its Choreozone project in 2023. Choreozone focuses on the sharing and reinterpretation of Clod Ensemble’s rich multimedia archive. In this context, the remastering – or should that be remistressing? – of Red Ladies for the world’s largest museum of applied arts, decorative arts and design adds up to another boldly unique performance from a company which has made the bold and unique its modus operandi since launching in 1995.

Over the coming twelve months Choreozone will encompass new presentations from the Clod Ensemble repertoire as well as exhibitions and workshops based around the company’s archival materials. Much of this activity will take place at Clod Ensemble Studios on Greenwich Peninsula.


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