Wednesday, December 7

A Day Out at Shakespeare’s Theatre – A Bit Lit

‘A Bit Lit’ is the brainchild of Andy Kesson and Jimmy Tucker and is a learning platform which offers the opportunity to learn about early modern theatre in a fun and immersive way.

‘A Day Out at Shakespeare’s Theatre’, was the launch event for this learning platform, and all the stops were pulled out to make the two hours of this Zoom event, fun and imaginative.  It all began with an introduction by actor Simon Russell Beale and teacher Emma Smith who decided to go on a date to a theatre.  The discussion highlighted a typical date at the theatre, food, a show and may be some bearbaiting or cock fighting if the show was not to their taste.

Then we heard from B K Adams, Sarah Dustagheer and Elizabeth Tavares who presented a vision of the early modern theatre, building a picture of how a typical theatre may look and who may attend. 

One of the highlights for me was the smells of early modern theatres.  Holly Dugan lead an interesting interactive discussion on this.  The audience brought along an orange, cumin, rosemary, rose water, wood chips/pine fragrance and coins.  This interactive way of bringing the sense of smell into play gave the whole experience an extra dimension and kept the event fun and informative.  I had never really thought of cumin smelling like sweat, or that rosemary was used as a type of nosegay to help to ward off the plague.  I have to admit that the only pine scented thing that I could find was loo cleaner, so to be voluntarily sniffing loo cleaner on a Saturday afternoon was…unusual to say the least!

Heather Knight and Callan Davies showed us The Curtain Theatre from an archaeological point of view.  It was interesting to see that this theatre would not have been circular, like The Globe Theatre, but the stage and theatre would have been rectangular, and it would have had mixed use for theatre as well as cabaret or fencing displays for example.  Outside spaces would have been used for food and drinking.

Along the way, there were several votes taken.  Vote 1 – How do we get to the theatre?  By boat, won the vote.  Vote 2 – What snack should be taken in?  Nuts, won the vote, and Vote 3 – Where shall we sit?  In the pit, won the vote.

The afternoon was rounded off by an improvised play based in the early modern era by The Pantaloons.  Stephen Purcell had suggestions given by the group, these suggestions were – that it would be a tragicomedy, the protagonists name would be Small Ability and the name of the play was The Parliament of Bees.  Performed by Monica Gaga, Francesca Reid and Lisa Ronaghan, they managed to weave an interesting tale including porridge, a witch’s coven, a bee Prime Minister who was PM of the hives and they shared a suitcase of wine between the coven and everyone else.

I can wholeheartedly say that this is the way to learn.  A very engaging two hours with a whole host of different ideas to bring the experience of visiting Shakespeare’s theatre to life.

‘A Bit Lit’ are also offering a follow-on course called ‘How to Make an Elizabethan Theatre’ beginning on the 14th February at 12pm running for four weeks.  Follow this link for further information – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-to-make-an-elizabethan-theatre-tickets-198132237857  And go to https://abitlit.co/ to learn more about ‘A Bit Lit’.

Reviewer: Caroline Worswick

Reviewed: 15th January 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★

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