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Exhibition Review : Shakespeare in Ten Acts at the British Library – 15th April to 6th September 2016

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In the year that marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, The British Library presents a major new exhibition entitled Shakespeare in Ten Acts which explores how Shakespeare became a cultural icon over the centuries. The exhibition explores the Shakespeare story by focusing on ten key performances which often changed the course of Shakespeare’s legacy.

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The first part of the exhibition is called the Prologue and contains some of the rarest printed works, printed editions include Shakespeare’s First Folio and the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603, one of only two copies in the world. One of the rarest items in the exhibition is the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand.

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The Ten Acts, part of the exhibition begins with Hamlet which premiered at the Globe Theatre in around 1600. Shakespeare’s relationship with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and Richard Burbage is explored in documents with a number of items associated with the play.   One of the highlights include a human skull inscribed with poetry given to actress Sarah Bernhardt by the writer Victor Hugo, which she then used as Yorick’s skull when she famously played Hamlet in 1899.

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The next act is based around The Tempest which was written for the Blackfriars Playhouse in around 1610, it is a play that has proved popular with theatre and film makers over many generations due to its rich visual and musical content.

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The third act, The wide world explores Shakespeare’s global appeal which provides some evidence that the first production overseas could have been a performance of Hamlet on board a ship in front of an African audience in 1607.

Whilst a large number of actresses have their theatrical reputation playing Shakespeare, the fourth act considers the first woman who appeared in a Shakespeare play in 1660. The name of the woman is unknown but her performance allowed women to establish a presence in British theatre.

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Other themes the exhibition explores is A Shakespeare forgery in Drury Lane in 1796, the first Black actor to play Othello in Britain in 1825, the long and complex history of productions of King Lear, Peter Brook’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the 1970s, the Shakespeare’s Globe version of Twelfth Night in 2002 and a digital version of Hamlet in 2013.

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Other highlights include a Prologue read out to warn the audience before the first performance of a woman on stage as Desdemona in Othello in 1660, a dress worn by Vivien Leigh when playing the role of Lady Macbeth in the 1955 production of Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Company, a Hamlet script owned by generations of Hamlet actors including Sir Michael Redgrave, Peter O’Toole and Sir Derek Jacobi, now owned by Sir Kenneth Branagh and the costume worn by Mark Rylance when playing the role of Olivia in the 2012 production of Twelfth Night at the Globe.

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This intriguing and entertaining exhibition produces a multi media exploration of Shakespeare’s legacy by featuring treasures from the Library’s collections alongside a wide range of costumes, props, paintings and film clips. It quickly becomes clear that part of Shakespeare’s theatrical longevity is partly due to the diverse ways in which Shakespeare’s plays have been reinvented throughout the ages. Each generation seems to find a way to adapt the plays to make them contemporary and the universal themes allows his work to be performed all across the world.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

15th April – 6th September 2016, British Library.

Admission £12, Seniors £10,

For more information or book tickets, visit the British Library website here

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Exhibition Review : Performing for the Camera at Tate Modern – 18th February to 12th June 2016

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Tate Modern explores the relationship between photography and performance in their exhibition, Performing for the Camera.

Since the invention of photography in the 19th century, the genre has been concerned with showing art and performance, the exhibition brings together over 500 images spanning 150 years which document  performance works such as Yves Klein’s Anthropometrie de l’epoque blue 1960, a live painting event using the bodies of naked women, as well as key 60s performances by Yayoi Kusama, Marta Minujín and Niki de Saint Phalle.

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Some of the earliest works in the exhibition look at the way that photography began to used showing famous performers acting out their characters from the stage. Photographs from Nadar’s studio in 19th century Paris show the famous mime artist Charles Deburau acting out poses as the character ‘Pierrot’ and famous actress Sarah Bernhardt in a series of roles.

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Later works drawing on this same idea include Harry Shunk and Janos Kender with their photographs of dancer, Merce Cunningham in 1964. Eikoh Hosoe’s Kamataichi, a collaboration with the choreographer and founder of the Butoh movement Tatsumi Hijikata in 1969 is one of the first to have given equal authorial credit to the performing subject and the photographer.

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Ideas of self-identity are explored through works by Claude Cahun, Man Ray and Cindy Sherman, as well as projects like Samuel Fosso’s African Spirits 2008 where the artist photographs himself in the guise of iconic figures. The exhibition also looks at the ways that portraiture has been used by photographers like Lee Friedlander, Masahisa Fukase and Hannah Wilke.

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Marketing and self promotion have always played a major part in photography and recent masters of the form, artists Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol illustrate how identity can be formed and distorted for a particular event.

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In many ways, most of the exhibition illustrates the photographer and the photographed as two separate entities, however, the modern world of social media and selfies offers the subject as photographer which raises a series of questions about the lines between photography and performance. A recent work staged on Instagram by Amalia Ulman illustrates the ways that people are using their poses for photographs to seemingly find ways of validating their identity.

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Performing for the Camera is an interesting and thought-provoking exhibition that explores the relationship between photography and performance. From the earliest days of photography, there seems to have been an element of performing for the camera. Over the last 150 years, this performance has led to a wide range of applications from serious performances to more informal humour and improvisation. The exhibition provides of plenty of evidence that photography’s influence has grown considerably till it has now become a constant presence in the lives of millions, many now recording their own and others performances each day.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Performing for the Camera

Tate Modern: Exhibition

18 February – 12 June 2016

Adult £16.00 (without donation £14.50)

Concession £14.00 (without donation £12.70)

If you would like further information or book tickets, visit the Tate Modern website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here