Kids in Museums volunteer Caroline Marcus visited Stratford-upon-Avon recently with her ten year-old daughter, Rosa. Shakespeare’s Top Ten Characters is a new exhibition at Nash’s House, Shakespeare’s final home and part of Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust…
Shakespeare wrote his plays around 400 years ago and the stories still capture our imagination today. Objects in this exhibition are displayed alongside illustrator Ailsa Burrows’ striking, witty images. They depict each of the ten characters voted ‘most popular’ by visitors to Nash’s House and in an online poll. Rosa was instantly curious and inspired when she saw this image of Macbeth’s mugshot and was drawn to look closer at the interesting things beside it.
Text labels are short but packed with interesting headline facts linking to the character and a quote from the play. My favourite character was Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing because I once played this feisty lady in a school play. In the play, she hides behind a mask to trick Benedict into thinking she doesn’t care for him. We saw a Venetian feathered mask to represent hiding and a vivid Elizabethan sweet bag, used to hold sweet-smelling herbs to guard against illness. It’s a reminder that herbs were given to Beatrice to smell when she had a cold, or perhaps when she was really lovesick for Benedict.
Rosa loved Bottom, partly due to the name and also because she liked the donkey mask on loan from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, together with the amusing image. Her verdict was ‘the cartoons were interesting and I’d like it if we could draw our own. It would be good to have some dressing up clothes with the donkey mask, a Cleopatra wig, swords and crowns’. The friendly team told us that costumes are coming very soon. A trail, quiz, stickers, badges or postcards of the amusing illustrations might also enrich an already positive experience by encouraging visitors to be responsive and reflect further on the inspiring interpretation.
A twitter follower described this exhibition as “treating kids with respect and putting plays in context”. Rosa and I agree and strongly suggest that you come along to choose your favourite or most hated character and display your choice on the exhibition sharing board.
Shakespeare’s Top Ten Characters is on at Nash’s House until December 2013.