Monday, 8 August 2016

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

Shakespeare in Ten Acts, The British Library, London. July 2016.

In the year that I finished my MA and 400th anniversary of the Bard's death there have been lots of Shakespeare events and exhibition. Perversely I've not seen that many plays etc. this year - possibly because I was concentrating so hard on my dissertation but I  knew that I really wanted to see this exhibition.

I'm pleased that we got there, the concept was really good because it wasn't just about Shakespeare's time but his legacy and this is what a lot of my studying has been about.

Each zone took a different play as a theme and then used printed material, costumes, interviews and videos to put it all in context.

Highlights for me were the copies of the early books, folios and quartos - comparing the three versions of Hamlet was a delight and reading the details about the booksellers and exactly where you'd find their stalls shops really brought the era to life.
Other parts that I liked were the rooms on Othello and non white actors - possibly influenced by seeing Red Velvet and reading about theatre in the eighteenth century.  I also liked seeing the recreation of Peter Brook's iconic white box A Midsummer Night's Dream as I'd read so much about this production.

A great deal of my pleasure from this exhibition came from seeing the actual items that I'd learned about over the past few years - the actual pages of the play Sir Thomas More thought to have been written by Shakespeare for instance but also the layout was really good and as it wasn't too busy at all when we visited there was plenty of time to read everything and walk backwards and forwards to look at things more than once.

After the past few years of study I didn't expect to learn many new things from the exhibition, but there were some quirky details that I did discover and if the exhibition had been a little warmer and I didn't have another play to get to I think I'd have spent even longer poring over the exhibits.

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