Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Museum of London.



A day at the Museum of London looking in particular at some of the restoration artifacts. It's a brilliant museum and a fantastic resource. I just wish it were larger.


I'm beginning to turn my mind to writing something on the reformation of a theatrical scene in London and the friendly, for the most part, rivalry between Tom Killigrew and William Devenant, who were awarded the two exclusive royal patents to build new playhouses and start up companies. Charles II's own love of theatre not only endorsed the new age, but made it absolutely essential that anybody who is anybody be seen there. It's a classic tortoise and hare story. Killigrew, who'd loyally spent the 1650s in exile with the King set to work at once with a prolific output of work, hiring all of the best known actors from the days before the commonwealth and resurrecting the rhetorical style of the Jacobean and first Caroline period.


Devenant took his time, explored and pioneered European staging effects and recognised the importance of the scenic to the bright new age of show and light. When his Opera opened a year behind Killigrew it caused a sensation with the King himself switching patronage.


All of this of course is beautifully and gossipy recorded in Samuel Pepys diaries and after I'd finished at the museum I took the short walk east to Seething Lane where he lived for the large part of his adult life, and the parish church of St Olave, where he worshipped and prayed forgiveness for his many indiscretions. High above the alter stands a bust of his wife Elizabeth, mouth slightly open, eyes unblinking. She died young and Pepys distraught commissioned the sculpture to look down on him once a week, keeping him in check, reminding him of duty. It didn't work very well. I suspect Samuel enjoyed feeling guilty a little too much.

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1 comment:

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