New exhibition explores Regency theatre's fascination with history
Exploration, revolution and patriotism take centre stage in this exhibition, which examines the influence of history and historical events in the writing and staging of theatre, opera and drama from 1780-1840. Staging History features beautiful set designs, theatrical documents and illustrations from collections held at the Bodleian and other institutions.
Some highlights include:
- A beautiful set maquette for the pantomime Omai, or a trip around the world designed by Philip James de Loutherbourg, an artist who revolutionized English stage design with his naturalistic scenic effects
- An illustration of Sadler's Wells 'Aquatic Theatre' production of The Siege of Gibraltar in which a large tank on the stage was filled with water from the nearby New River, producing one of the grandest theatrical spectacles of the time
- A 3-dimensional set design for a play about legendary Swiss marksman William Tell. It shows a sublime Alpine landscape rendered in watercolour by the Grieve family, who were among London's best-known scene painters
- An oil painting of a production of Shakespeare's Henry VIII showing its attempt to clothe characters in historically appropriate costume
- Early maps of Captain Cook's travels across the Pacific, which inspired many theatre productions at the turn of the nineteenth century
- The musical score from Pizarro, a 1799 play about the conquest of Peru led by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro.