Members with an interest in the way in which the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries were staged have a new tool available to them. With the help of a grant from AHRC, Martin White, Professor of Theatre at the University of Bristol, has created a practical experiment to explore the use of lighting and space in the indoor Jacobean theatre and extend research into our understanding of performance practice.
In a reconstruction of a Jacobean playing space built in the Drama Department's Wickham Theatre in Bristol, he staged scenes from several plays of the period which made particular use of different forms of light. Lighting was variously provided by candles, torches and lanterns and by chandeliers overhead. The actors were dressed in costumes from Shakespeare's Globe, made under the supervision of Jenny Tirimani, and used for that theatre's 'original practices' productions.
These scenes are available on a DVD in a form which allows the viewer to select and move between four different positions in the playhouse getting the spectator's view from each. There is a wide range of supporting documentary material including interviews with prominent academics (Andrew Gurr, Gordon Higgott), demonstrations and analysis of original practices in staging, costume and make-up plus a computer-generated VR model and access to a regularly updated website.
The DVD will prove a useful aid to those teaching or studying Jacobean theatre and will certainly intrigue anyone with an interest in the drama and staging of that period.
Further information and some demonstration passages from the DVD can be viewed on the Chamber of Demonstations website. Why not take a look? Can you imagine being an actor or a member of an audience for a performance at these light levels? A very different experience from today.
The Chamber of Demonstrations
The Wickham Theatre
Professor Martin White
The Chamber of Demonstrations (on Amazon)
27th December 2009