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Right Royal Dress Parade

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The royal wedding weekend has been totally eclipsed by the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Or has it? The pomp and splendour of the service in Westminster Abbey was followed by a grubby shoot out in a concrete compound right next to a leading military academy; it now transpires that Osama had been inside that place for six years. And nobody knew?

The more we find out, the more we begin to think that everything's a conspiracy. I reckon Wills and Kate postponed their honeymoon because of a tip off. And why were they planning to go to Jordan, anyway?

The simplicity and flair of the wedding in this context seem like a reaffirmation of our potential for communal joy, of a way of living we should aspire to every day, and not just when a privileged prince and a beautiful commoner get hitched.

The spirit was already abroad at the end of last week when Uncle Vanya opened at the Arcola in Dalston. As the audience spilled out onto the street beforehand, and in the interval, you felt the street coming alive in this dark little Dalston enclave.

There's a church opposite, and there had been a funeral. The mourners gathered round the car with the hatchback serving as an impromptu bar and the party was soon underway, and not a single Union Jack in sight.

I spent the weekend walking in the Yorkshire dales, with a diversion to the splendid Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition of moonlit city landscapes in  the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate, and a series of sociable pub meals in the Roundhay Fox near Leeds, the Game Cock in Austwick, Ribbendale, and the Shibden Mill Inn in the Calder Valley. I ran up Spofforth Hill in Wetherby.

As the news broke of events in Pakistan, the still joyous buzz from the royal wedding, and the high excitement of the World Snooker Championship on the telly from Sheffield, seemed far more "real" and comprehensible.

Belinda Lang of The Theatrical Guild, this year's nominated charity in the Whatsonstage.com Awards -- has sent me a booklet of the royal wedding dress as envisioned -- before the event -- by twenty of our leading theatre designers.

It's a splendid little publication with drawings and sketches by the likes of Alison Chitty,  Simon Higlett, Robert Jones, Mark Thompson and Anthony Ward.The original designs were produced for auction at the Chris Beetles Gallery to raise money for the Guild, and a limited edition of prints is available on [email protected], or on 020 7395 5460.

The most fantastically outrageous design is Bob Crowley's, a flurry of white label tags for a label queen. Fotini Dimou, Tim Goodchild and Robert Jones all anticipated the large transparent veil, while Jonathan Fensom dresses Kate in a suit of armour, in preparation, he says, for "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune."   

The simplicity and Grace Kelly like elegance of the Middleton dress is most accurately reflected in the designs of Fotini Dimou, Higlett and Colin Richmond. Andreane Neofitou provides a dash of theatricality in a beaded tiara and a scalloped train.

Colin Falconer and Matthew Wright each design very different styles of party frock. And Lucy Hall suggests a haze of chiffon for an ordinary girl "who might just want to float away." I'd love to have seen what Philip Prowse might have done. And if I had to select a winner, it would be one of the three outfits drawn by Fotini Dimou, with  a pearl corset, a precious armour, and a light skirt made of organza and chiffon sections.

In the end, of course, the trump theatrical card was played by Sarah Burton's stunning use of lace and white satin, and the perfect line of the cut and composition. It's much easier to remember that than to speculate on what Osama Bin Laden's wife was wearing as her marriage ended in the opposite of a cloud of glory.


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