Other names: Audrey Sophia Harris
A stage designer, Sophia was the daughter of William Birbeck Harris (1867-1924),
and Kathleen Carey (1873-1916).
She was part of the team at the design firm Motley which included
her sister Margaret 'Percy' Frances Harris (*1904, Shortland, Kent; †2000,
Northwood, Middlesex), and Elizabeth Montgomery (*1902, Kidlington, Oxon;
†1993, London). They studied at the Slade School of Art and their
career took off after Sir John Gielgud asked them to design costumes for
his 1932 production Romeo and Juliet. From then on until the
1930s, they were the top designers for the West End and Old Vic. Their
style was simple, yet beautiful, providing a contrast to the more sophisticated,
elaborate trend that had been prevailing at the time. The Motley brand
began to extend their work to America after Lawrence Olivier chose them
for his Romeo and Juliet. Percy and Montgomery went to America
in 1940, but Sophia stayed behind. She had married the theatre director
in 1939, and was mostly working alone after the departure of her partners.
Following her husband's departure for the Burma campaign, and the birth
of her daughter, Sophia had a nervous breakdown. She was later evacuated
with her daughter after the German bombings of London. The Motley studio
in St Martins was then destroyed by bombs. After her husband returned
from the war, he opened the Old Vic theatre, and Sophia and her sister
Percy, who had returned from America, taught costume design there until
its closure in 1952. Motley's continued to design extensively for stage
productions until 1966.
It was awarded a BAFTA in 1963 for its costume design in the film
The Pumpkin Eater.
Place of birth: Hayes, Kent
1. M. Mulin.
Design by Motley. Cranbury, NJ; London; Mississauga, Ontario:
Associated University Presses
2. British Academy of Film and Televsion Arts. [n.d.]