Barry Kay, internationally acclaimed stage and costume designer, photographer, born 1932 Melbourne Australia, died 1985 London England





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BARRY KAY ARCHIVE

London





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Barry Kay – Biography – 1966-1975






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1965

back to 1956-1965

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1966

May 7
Première of Raymonda, Act III, [4.1] given while on tour; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Nureyev (after Marius Petipa); The Royal Ballet, Touring Company; National Opera House, Helsinki, Finland.

May 18
Première of Tancredi; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Rudolf Nureyev; Wiener Staatsopernballett (since 2010 Wiener Staatsballett; State Opera House, Vienna.

May - June
Barry Kay's inspired solution for Tancredi results in Nureyev assigning him to create the sets and costumes for yet a third ballet in very short succession – Don Quixotev [4.2], also to be performed by the Wiener Staatsopernballett at the State Opera House, Vienna. The première date is set for early December this year.

Spring - Summer - Autumn
Dividing his time between Vienna and London, Kay commences designing the sets and costumes for The Sleeping Beauty / Dornröschen, a Kenneth MacMillan production for the Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin, Bismarckstraße, Berlin-Charlottenburg [4.3]; to be premièred in the spring of the following year.

July 16
First Night of Raymonda, Act III; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Royal Ballet, Touring Company; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

Autumn
Due to additional fundraising required to enable the staging of The Sleeping Beauty as well as overcoming technical complications, based on first-time ever constructed scenery for a ballet at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the scheduled spring première date of this production is put on hold until further notice [4.4]. In the interim Kay designs MacMillan's Anastasia1.

December 1
Première of Don Quixotev; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); Wiener Staatsopernballett; State Opera House, Vienna.

A letter by Barry Kay, dated November 5, 1978, to John Tooley, then general administrator of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden:


Dear John -

I am very pleased with the reception of Solitaire in its new designs as I am with the realisation of the set. However, I should like it to be noted for the record that we were extremely lucky to have had the costumes at all complete for the first night.

I really cannot remember worse organisation in this area. The costume designs were delivered early as was the set, but the actual work on the costumes was delayed until the last minute. As a result we were without fittings for most of the principals and we could only have a first impression of them at the general [rehearsal; ed]. This kind of panic is totally unnecessary and creates an untenable atmosphere in which to work, both for the designer and costumiers.

Without going into detail at this point, I would like to stress that the one and only cause for this situation was extremely poor delegation. This resulted in overloaded work for a few and almost none for many others.

On any future occasion that I may be invited to design for Covent Garden or Sadler's Wells, I would like some assurance before commencing, that such a situation would not arise again.

I regret having to write in this way, as much effort was put into it by the staff and the results were good, but I feel it essential for you to know the facts not just for my sake but also for that of my colleagues.

With best regards always,
Sincerely,

Barry




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1967

June 25
World première of Anastasia1, later to be known as the original one-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography MacMillan; Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Deutsche Oper Berlin.

October 8
Première of The Sleeping Beauty / Dornröschen; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; choreography MacMillan (after Petipa); Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berln; Deutsche Oper Berlin.

October 9 - 18
"Barry Kay - Bühnenbilder und Figurinen", an exhibition of set and costume designs for accompanied by a small range of costume drawings for the Vienna production of Don Quixotev; Galerie Hammer & Theater, Europa-Center, Berlin. To mark the occasion and to advertize the event, Kay's friend and the Archive's future founder, Michael Werner, designs a poster.




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1968

January 3 - 27
"Barry Kay and Ronald Searle" joint exhibition; Kay shows scenery and costume designs of the Berlin stagings of The Sleeping Beauty / Dornröschen and Anastasia1, as well as of the Vienna staging of Don Quixotev; Grosvenor Gallery, Mayfair, London.

Spring - Summer - Autumn
Throughout this time Kay is consecutively designing the set and costumes for MacMillan's new ballet Cain and Abel / Kain und Abel, to be performed by the Ballett der Deutschen Oper, Berlin – and entirely new scenery and costumes for an existing production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for The Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

November 1
World première of Cain and Abel / Kain und Abel; ballet; assignment scener and costumes; choreography MacMillan; Ballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Deutsche Oper Berlin.

December
At a dinner and soirée at his London residence Nureyev is asking Kay to design a new production of Don QuixoteA, which he is planning to stage with The Australian Ballet at the Adelaide Festival in the spring of 1970.




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1969

January 24
First night of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; opera; apparently a restaging of a previous production; assignment entirely new designs of scenery, costumes and properties; production and direction Rudolf Hartmann; conductor Georg (György) Solti; The Royal Opera; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London. The set model and a number of costume drawings are acquired by the Royal Opera House Archives, renamed since to Royal Opera House Collections.

March 27
Première of Raymonda Act III; ballet; assignment scenery and costumes; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Royal Ballet, Principal Company; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

Spring - Summer
Preparatory works start on scenery and costume designs for Nureyev's Don QuixoteA for the Australian Ballet at the Adelaide Festival; concurrently, Kay begins designing sets and costumes for MacMillan's Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie, to be premièred by the Stuttgart Ballet in the spring of next year.

Autumn
Kay flies to Melbourne, delivering his models and set and costume drawings for Don QuixoteA at the Australian Ballet, conveying and discussing his intentions with workshops and dress-making departments.

November - December
Upon his return to London Kay sets out to finalize his designs for MacMillan's ballet Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie and, following their delivery, is paying intermittent visits to the Stuttgart workshops.

Sometime this year - date [?]
Some of Kay's designs are presented at a public exhibition entitled 'Stage Design', which is held in Melbourne; venue [?]. In the foreword of the accompanying illustrated catalogue the London ballet critic, Nigel Gosling, discusses Kay's approach to stage design.

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1970

January - March
With the two première dates of Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie, Stuttgart, and Don QuixoteA, Adelaide, coming up in March, Kay is required to commute back and forth between Germany and Australia.

March 3 - throughout the year
Kay starts designing sets and costumes for MacMillan's three-act version of Anastasia3 for The Royal Ballet; the work is occupying him for the rest of the year, extending into the following one.

March 8
World Première of Miss Julie / Fräulein Julie; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography MacMillan; The Stuttgart Ballet; Württembergische Staatstheater, Staatstheater Stuttgart.

March 28 - April 4
Première and first season of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery [4.5], costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet; Her Majesty‚Äôs Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre; Adelaide Festival, South Australia.

April 7
First night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet; Palais Theatre, St Kilda, Melbourne. First staging of production in Melbourne immediately following Adelaide Festival season; duration of first Melbourne season not established.

April 8 - Duration [?]
Exhibition of scenery and costume designs for Don QuixoteA, opening by Robert Helmpan; South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne.

May 22 - June 6 [?]
First night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet; Sydney Opera House. Sixteen performances are given in Sydney.

June 11 - 24
First night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet; venue [?], Brisbane, Queensland. The Brisbane season encompasses sixteen performances, including twice-weekly matinées.

September 4 - 12
First night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet; venue [?], Perth, Western Australia. Ten performances are given in Perth.

1970 et seq.
Sometime during the early 1970s Barry Kay is approached by a production consortium asking him to design the costumes and scenery for the musical Canterbury Tales, which is to open at a London theatre. Despite various discussions being under way between Kay and the producer, together with other high-ranking members of the consortium, for reasons hitherto unknown, the plan never comes to fruition. Any emerging information shall be added to these pages.

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1971

January 1 - July 21
In-between his forthcoming travels, Kay continues working on set and costumes designs, and supervising their making, for MacMillan's three-act version of Anastasia3 with The Royal Ballet.

January 17
Kay flies to the USA to attend the staging of Nureyev's Don QuixoteA with The Australian Ballet.

January 18 - 19
First night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet on tour; [theatre?], St. Louis, Illinois.

January 20 - Duration [?]
Opening night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet on tour; New York City Center, West 56th Street, New York City.

January 20 - February 6
Joint exhibition coinciding with above, Kay is showing set and costume designs for Don QuixoteA and The Sleeping Beauty / Dornröschen; co-exhibitor William Pitkin; Wright Hepburn Webster Gallery, New York City.

July 22
World première of Anastasia3, three-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography MacMillan; The Royal Ballet; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London.

July 23 - November 3
Immediately following the première of Anastasia3 Kay commences working on new sets and costumes for Nureyev's Don QuixoteM at the Ballet National de Marseille; to supervise the various workshops Kay frequently travels between London and Marseille.

October 9 - November 18
Exhibition of set and costume designs for Anastasia3; The Royal Opera House; Covent Garden, London.

November 4
Gala première of Don QuixoteM; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); Ballet National de Marseille; l'Opéra Municipal de Marseille.

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Barry Kay at his Knightsbridge stuio in London, 1968, highly talented, internationally acclaimed stage and costume designer, later in his career also distinguished photographer. Designs for ballet, drama, opera and film. International ballet companies and opera houses, theatres.


Barry Kay with his long-term friend the Australian impresario Clifford Hocking in Fes, Morocco, 1073, highly talented, internationally acclaimed stage and costume designer, later in his career also distinguished photographer. Designs for ballet, drama, opera and film. International ballet companies and opera houses, theatres. Photograph by Michael Werner.


Barry Kay at the Vienna State Opera House during the Revival of Nureye's 'Don Quixote', 1977, highly talented, internationally acclaimed stage and costume designer, later in his career also distinguished photographer. Designs for ballet, drama, opera and film. International ballet companies and opera houses, theatres.


Barry Kay in Athens at the Acropolis, 1980, during shooting of documentary of his work as highly talented, internationally acclaimed stage and costume designer, later in his career also distinguished photographer. Designs for ballet, drama, opera and film. International ballet companies and opera houses, theatres. Documentary by Westdeutschr Runkfunk, Köln, Executive Director Wibke von Bonin, Producers and Cimnematographers Eila Hershon and Roberto Guerra.



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Barry Kay, London 1968


Fes, Morocco 1973 - positioned behind his friend of long standing, the Australian impresario Clifford Hocking photo © Michael Werner


Vienna 1977
photo Annette Lederer


Athens 1980
photo © Michael Werner



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1972


April 27 - May 8
Kay flies to New York City, preparing the staging of The Royal Ballet's forthcoming performance of Anastasia3 at the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center. Following the première, he stays on for a few days before returning to London.

May 5
US première of Anastasia3; three-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography MacMillan; The Royal Ballet on tour; Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York.

May 9 - 15
On his return to London Kay flies via Spain, visiting Seville and Ronda, to take photographs and make sketches of local people and their habitats for reference purposes in designing the scenery, costumes and props for the movie version of Don QuixoteF.

July 19
First night of Anastasia3, three-act version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; period newsreel projections; choreography MacMillan; The Royal Ballet on tour; Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center, New York.

August 25 - October 8
Barry Kay's costume and set drawings for Don Quixote are on show in an exhibition entitled "Ten Years of the Australian Ballet – Costume and Design"; included are drawings for the existing stage production, premièred at the 1970 Adelaide Festival, as well as the imminent film version currently in preparation and due for release in 1973; venue National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

September 21 - 23
En route to Melbourne Kay attends a meeting in New York, for further discussions with the producer and United Artists Inc concerning technical details, extras casting and the shooting schedule of the movie version of Don QuixoteF.

September 24 - December 8
In Melbourne he is setting up workshops in preparation of the shooting for Rudolf Nureyev's and Robert Helpman's movie of Don QuixoteF. The actual shooting is accomplished within a mere three weeks, terminating on December 8. [4.6] Concurrently, Kay is setting up an exhibition of stage and costume designs due to open shortly in South Yarra.

November - Duration [?]
Whilst in Australia, a prearranged exhibition of set and costume designs for various productions is taking place at the Desmos Gallery, Athens.

December 9 - 31
Following the shooting of the Don QuixoteF movie Kay remains in Melbourne to reassemble the set model; upon completion he donates it to the Australian Ballet Society, where it finds its permanent home.

December 10 - 22
Exhibition of set and costume designs for the movie version of Don QuixoteF and for Anastasia3; South Yarra Gallery, Melbourne. [4.7]

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1973

January 1 - 12
Before returning to London, Kay is paying Tokyo and Kyoto an informative visit, gathering impressions of Japanese culture and life. The annually recurring three-day Sake Festival at the beginning of January provides ample opportunities for dress and character studies.

July 12 - August 4
Exhibition of set designs for various productions; participating in four-man show entitled "Bozzetti scenografici della Royal Opera House di Londra" ("Stage designs for the Royal Opera House, London"); Studio la Città Galleria d'Arte, Verona.

July 19
Gala world première of Don Quixote F, movie version; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes, properties and special effects; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa), co-direction Nureyev and Helpman; production John L. Hargreaves for United Artists Inc; The Australian Ballet, Sydney Opera House. – Read the review about this movie production by Anna Kisselgoff in The New York Times.

September 1
A birthday gift of a 35mm camera unexpectedly sets off Barry Kay's additional career as a photographer. Soon afterwards, he travels to Amsterdam and Crete exploring his visual skills through the lens of the camera. He discovers photography to be a medium in which he excels as much as in working as a scenographer and costume designer.

October 2 - October 6
First night of Don QuixoteA; ballet; assignment scenery, costumes and properties; choreography Nureyev (after Petipa); The Australian Ballet on tour; coinciding with an exhibition of set and costume designs for the same ballet, both at the Coliseum Theatre, London.

October 21 - Duration [?]
Exhibition of set and costume designs for the movie version of Don QuixoteF; sponsor British Council Australia; venue Sydney Opera House.

October 31
Preview of scenery and costumes designed by Barry Kay, an exhibition and reception held on the occasion of commemorating the opening of the Sydney Opera House earlier this year; host New South Wales Government; venue New South Wales House, London. The exhibition opens officially tomorrow.

At this reception, Kay meets a representative of the State Library of New South Wales – the Mitchell Library's Liaison Librarian. In response to the latter's interest, Kay indicates his willingness to sell a number of his designs and working drawings [ibid] for ballet productions.

November 1 - Duration [?]
Exhibition of set and costume designs for the movie version of Don QuixoteF, as well as two set models and actual stage costumes for Anastasia³ on loan from The Royal Ballet; sponsor New South Wales Government; venue New South Wales House, London.

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1974

January 26 - February 22
Exhibition of set and costume designs for various productions; Bards Gallery, Kensington, London.

January 28
Royal gala première in the presence of Princess Margaret, president of The Royal Ballet, European release of the movie version of Don QuixoteF; ballet; details as above (1973, July 19); The Bloomsbury Cinema, London.

February 27 - March 3
Kay consults Galerie Proscenium in Paris to negotiate an exhibition of his designs.

May 8 - November 10
Kay photographically records the last months and the closure of the historic Covent Garden Market, adjacent to the Royal Opera House. A feature is published in the 'Observer Magazine', London, and in the German magazine 'Schöner Wohnen', Gruner+Jahr, Hamburg.

October 2 - November 15
Participating in an exhibition of "Theatre Design", showing costume and set designs for various productions; Annelie Juda Fine Arts, London.

December 20 - 31
In Melbourne Kay sets out photographing Australia's unique Ocker characters, his first endeavour of creating a socio-anthropological documentary; to be continued the following year and in the course of future visits to Australia. [4.8]





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1975

January 1 - February 27
In pursuit of the Ocker archetype among the rural population Kay leaves Melbourne by car on January 9. Passing through Sale, Orbost, Bega, Canberra and Nowra, his final destination is Sydney. Here, in King's Cross, he embarks upon another, long-harboured photographic project – he establishes first ties with members of Sydney's prolific, lively and diversified community of transvestites and transsexuals. His objective is the publication of a socio-anthropological documentary on the subject [henceforth: T&T]; at this stage a title is not as yet decided. [4.9]

April
As a result of the London meeting between Kay and the Mitchell Library's Liaison Librarian on October 31, 1973 [ibid], the State Library of New South Wales, in liaison with the New South Wales Government Offices in London, acquires from Kay a selection of 14 silver gelatin photographs of his stage and costume designs, including set models, created between 1966 and 1972. The selection comprises images of Tancredi (Vienna, 1966), Don QuixoteA (Adelaide, 1970), Don QuixoteM (Marseille, 1972), Anastasia1 (Berlin, 1967), and Anastasia3 (London, 1971). – Negotiations for the purchase of some of Kay's working drawings are in progress. [ibid]

Spring
Kay prepares a presentation of his photographs of T&T. In search of a UK publisher he gets Matthew Miller Dunbar in London interested, who are very eager in the realization of the project.

July 11 - September 17
Backed by the publishers' assurance to proceed with the project, Kay returns to Australia and continues photographing T&T. Concurrently, he lectures on theatre-related subjects in Sydney and Melbourne. [4.10]

August 17
Whilst still in Australia, a photographic feature of T&T is published in the London 'Observer'; issue: August 24, 1975.

Summer - Autumn - Winter
Back in London, Kay starts evaluating and collating thousands of negatives and is producing the first finished prints for the platemaking of the projected publication of T&T; much of this time is also spent collaborating with the publishers who, meanwhile, have secured an American and German edition in addition to the combined one for the UK and Australia.

September - December
Kay takes up lecturing at the Croydon College of Design and Technology on a regular basis; subjects covered are design for the theatre, constructivism and photography.

November 24 - December 1
In Hamburg, Germany, Kay approaches F.C. Gundlach, an accredited photographer himself and founder and proprietor of Germany's first gallery for photography. Kay proposes and discusses the prospects of an exhibition of images from his forthcoming publication of T&T.

December 11 - 31
To finalize photographing T&T Kay returns to Australia once again, first staying in Melbourne, then moving on to Sydney, extending his visit into the following year. For the time being, the Ocker project is on hold, awaiting another of Kay's visits to Sydney later on.

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1976

forward to 1976-1985





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[4.1]

Ballet Magazine states: "Raymonda has rather a strange history in the Royal Ballet. A full length production was mounted for the touring company in 1964 by Rudolf Nureyev, based on his memory of Petipa's choreography from his Kirov days, and eked out with his own work to fill the gaps. The first performances were in Italy, at the Spoleto Festival, and the original decór [by Beni Montresor; ed] turned out to be so unsuitable that the production was never shown in England. Instead, Nureyev remounted the last act only, first for the touring company and later at Covent Garden, with entirely new scenery and costumes by Barry Kay."

Ever since its première in 1966, Raymonda Act III has been exceedingly successful, last but not least, due to Barry Kay's sumptuous Byzantine set that elicits spontaneous applause each time the curtain rises. The production has remained in The Royal Ballet's repertory to this day and has been toured many a time as well. back to text





[4.2]

Key to superscripted numbers and letters:
Anastasia: 1 = one-act, 3 = three-act stage versions.
Don Quixote: A = Adelaide, M = Marseille, P = Melbourne projected, V = Vienna stage versions; F = Film version. back to text





[4.3]

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the ballet companies of both the Deutsche Oper Berlin (formerly West Berlin) and the Staatsoper (formerly East Berlin) have merged on January 1, 2004, and are now known as Staatsballett Berlin. back to text





[4.4]

In the autumn of 1966, when the set models for The Sleeping Beauty were presented at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the general administrator, Gustav Rudolf Sellner, and his staff were bewildered by the magnitude that Kay and MacMillan had in mind for this production. Being used to simple, conventional designs and low-cost ballet production budgeting, the Deutsche Oper Berlin simply lacked the time to meet the scheduled première date and, more so, the finances to stage this sort of scenery. Eventually, once it was established that, with more time at hand, the Deutsche Oper Berlin would be able to build the sets and the necessary subsidies were procured from the Berlin Senate, the originally scheduled première date was postponed and Kay's contract extended to design Anastasia¹, a ballet that MacMillan created to bridge the time gap. back to text





[4.5]

The Australian Ballet performed Don Quixote with Barry Kay's designs nationally and internationally so many times since its inaugural performance that both sets and costumes suffered from unavoidable wear and tear. Ultimately, the sets had been worn out beyond repair. During his visit at the Barry Kay Archive in the summer of 1985, Noel Pelly, then The Australian Ballet's administrator, indicated that the sets would have to be redesigned eventually. He also relayed that Kay's brilliant costumes for the movie version of Don Quixote (1973) will be used for future stage performances. As the production was to remain in the company's repertory, and continues to do so, Anne Fraser, who had been co-designing together with Kay as early as 1955, was commissioned to create new scenery for the ballet's restaging in 1993. Kay's costumes were retained and, to conserve them for as long as possible, completely refurbished in 2006. In her review in The Sydney Morning Herald of April 9, 2007, Jill Sykes wrote: "Barry Kay's costumes shone against Anne Fraser's stolid set."

Since Kay's death some of his costumes have been exhibited at galleries and museums during a number of events throughout Australia – last in Brisbane, Queensland, from February to April 2007. back to text





[4.6]

The entire operation took place at the disused hangar «F» and office buildings at Essendon Airport, Melbourne, the location where Nureyev's and Helpman's movie version of Don Quixote was produced. Apart from supervising all work in progress, Kay personally undertook the character casting of the many extras required for this production. He found all of them at Melbourne's famous Queen Victoria Market. back to text





[4.7]

Jeffrey Makin writes: "[...] finally, at the South Yarra Gallery, there are costume designs by Barry Kay. – Don Quixote and Anastasia (and company) have never been dressed more aptly than by Kay. These designs are explicit in detail to the mood and character of their wearers." back to text Source: 'The Melbourne Sun', December 13, 1972





[4.8]

Ocker is an Australian vernacular – used as noun, adverb and adjective alike – signifying the most basic characteristics and demeanour of socially lower strata, stereotype Australians of European descent. The Ocker is part of both the nation's social history and presence and contributes a healthy earthiness to the fabric of Australian society. back to text





[4.9]

No sooner had Kay started on this project, did his presence in town spread like a bush fire within Sydney's community of transvestites and transsexuals. Sensing serious interest and intent, and a broader recognition, they came to him in droves. In the course of photographing individuals, he tape-recorded the dialogues ensuing between them and himself. Feeling most sympathetic toward the idea of chronicling their lives, something never attempted on this scale before, they were only too eager to relay their personal stories. This, in turn, provided insightful information which Kay drew upon, when eventually writing the preface to the documentary and deciding its title. back to text





[4.10]

Since Barry Kay pursued the T&T venture on his own initiative, he had to get by without a financial advance by the publishers. To finance this and further trips to Australia to continue the project, much to his sadness, he had to swallow the bitter pill of selling his magnificent 1911 rosewood Bechstein concert grand piano. Originally sold to its previous owner by Harrod's of London, he managed to acquire it via the lead of a distant London relative only four years earlier. For the same reason he took up lecturing in Melbourne and Sydney. back to text

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