The show brings together set designs, theatrical documents, theatrical portraiture and illustrations of stages gathered from the Bodleian and other institutions.
“In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, audiences consumed dramas on historical topics with unprecedented enthusiasm,” says curator Michael Burden. “Even in an age of expanding print culture, theatres played an important role as dramatic newsreels for the masses.”
The exhibition highlights technical innovations that appeared on the British stage between 1780 and 1840 and examines how these complimented popular subjects such as the Napoleonic War and the voyages of Captain Cook.
A three-dimensional Alpine set designed by the Grieve family for a play about William Tell, an oil painting of a production of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII and an illustration of an ‘aquatic’ production of The Siege of Gibraltar at Sadler’s Wells will all appear on display.
The exhibition is set at the Weston Library, which opened to the public in 2015.
It runs from October 13 – January 8.