Coming Soon: The Assassin’s Masquerade

Saturday 27 September, 7.30pm, at Castle House, Sheffield.

An immersive performance with music from Hector Sequera and his ensemble. Step back in time and join a masquerade in sixteenth-century Florence where anything might happen.

pontormo venus masks

A detail of masks from Pontormo’s Venus, a painting Alessandro commandeered for his palace.

We’re keen to see as many party-goers as possible dressed up for the Assassin’s Masquerade. Feel free to wear what you like – you’re not obliged to stay in period – but if you need some inspiration, here are some ideas from the archives.

We know a lot about how the Medici court dressed up from their wardrobe records. One box of costumes included:

6 masks for peasants; 5 masks for women; 3 masks for Moors; one mask for a Moor with a beard; one Turkish-style mask; one mask for a hermit with a big beard; a horse-hair wig and a red beard.

The words for ‘red beard’ in Italian are Barba rossa: the nickname of an Ottoman admiral. It’s quite possible that this was a ‘pirate party’, with a Mediterranean battle theme.

At another masquerade, named or implied characters were rustics or countryfolk, peasants and gypsies. References to turbans and ‘eastern’ cloth suggest that this event might allude either to the contemporary conflict with the Ottoman Empire, and/or to the fashionable chivalric poems Orlando Innamorato and Orlando Furioso, romances set in a world of warfare between Christians and Moors at the time of the Emperor Charlemagne.

Fabrics for masquerading costumes were often rich: taffeta, satins and silks feature in the lists. Foreign styles might be worn to honour a visiting dignitary: when Alessandro de’ Medici’s fiancée Margaret of Austria came to Florence in 1533, half-a-dozen Spanish-style dresses were made up, five in taffeta and one in damask, for the celebrations. However, they were later recycled for another masquerade – into nun’s habits.

Casting now: Festival of the Mind performance, 27 September

We’re now casting for ‘The Assassin’s Masquerade’, our Festival of the Mind performance. This will be held on the evening of Saturday 27 September, in Sheffield. We’re looking for amateur performers aged 18+ to participate in a devised event based on historical research – check out the site’s pages for an idea of the period and place. Ideally you’ll have some performing experience (though not necessarily in a devised/immersive format). You’ll need to be available all day on 27 September and for early evening rehearsals in the two weeks preceding. If you’re interested, get in touch via the contact form.