Staging Shakespeare students at St Nicholas Priory

Students stage Shakespearean parade in Exeter

Meet the fools, clowns and ordinary folk of Shakespeare’s plays on Friday 13 December in Exeter city centre.

Masters students from the University of Exeter’s Staging Shakespeare course will be in costume outside the Elizabethan Guildhall in Exeter High Street at 5.30pm ready to parade down to St Nicholas Priory (The Mint, off Fore Street), where followers will be met with a glass of punch and promenade drama performances between 6pm and 7pm. 

Admission is free-of-charge and all are welcome.

They will be presenting comic Shakespearean scenes in St Nicholas Priory, an Elizabethan historical site, now a museum.  The audience will be led from room to room witnessing scenes that relate to the original purpose of these rooms. An example is where the performers will use the bedchamber to stage the most famous bedroom scene in Shakespeare’s ‘Cymbeline’; when the evil Italian Iachimo intrudes into the bedroom of the innocent, sleeping Imogen to spy on her and whip her husband into a raging jealousy. The students have been trained by a practising clown, Tony Lidington (aka Uncle Tacko), and tutored by University of Exeter Drama lecturer Professor David Wiles who is a specialist in Elizabethan clowning. 

The event has been organised in association with Royal Albert Memorial Museum, (RAMM) and the current exhibition on Elizabethan Devon.

Professor Wiles said:“The audience should be well warmed by laughter, assisted by a hot beverage, despite the lack of central heating in St Nicholas’s Priory!”

He added:“The Priory has been restored as near as possible to the state it was in as an Elizabethan dwelling. So this is a perfect opportunity for students to work in an authentic Tudor environment, prior to working on the reconstructed stage of Shakespeare's Globe theatre in London. Next year the MA students will be spending two weeks in February working on the Globe stage, where they will be trained by Globe actors. Their residency ends with the presentation of an abridged play.

Performing in St Nicholas Priory, a fully furnished Tudor home, has enabled the actors to understand the Tudor lifestyle. 

Student Benjamin Goulding said:“From initially being a small priory with just a few monks to then becoming an Elizabethan town house and now a heritage site is also really interesting as an actor to explore. Finding a way to balance and make Shakespeare work in this intimate environment has forced us to analyse the rooms in which we are working and develop our understanding of Shakespearean comedy. It has allowed me to explore the effect of space and place on comedy. Can you make a Shakespearean bedroom scene funnier by having a real Elizabethan bed?”

He added:“I undertook the Staging Shakespeare course to help develop my practical approach to Shakespeare which has previously been more academic and text based. I’ve found developing work in an Elizabethan space for a contemporary audience a huge and demanding challenge; one that has really helped hone my skills on relating with the audience and the pace and understanding of Elizabethan comedy.”

Date: 10 December 2013

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