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Explore Jacobean theatre on DVD

A scene from The Guardian on The Chamber of Demonstrations DVD

A scene from The Guardian on The Chamber of Demonstrations DVD © Ignition Films/Martin White

An actor being dressed for The Chamber of Demonstrations DVD

An actor being dressed for The Chamber of Demonstrations DVD © Ignition Films/Martin White

A scene from The Changeling

A scene from The Changeling © Ignition Films/Martin White

Press release issued: 11 June 2009

The Chamber of Demonstrations, a DVD reconstruction of the candlelit Jacobean playhouse, has been created by Professor Martin White and colleagues from the University’s Department of Drama: Theatre, Film and Television.

The DVD represents a remarkable theatrical experiment and a breakthrough in theatre research and teaching, using the latest Hi Definition cameras and DVD authoring software to shed new light on theatre history of the early modern period. 

In a full-scale reconstruction of the interior of a Jacobean indoor playhouse lit by tallow and wax candles made using traditional methods, experienced classical actors, dressed in costumes from Shakespeare's  Globe, perform scenes from The Duchess of Malfi, Tis Pity She's a Whore, The Changeling, Love's Sacrifice and The Guardian.

A unique feature of the DVD allows the viewer to select and move between four viewing points in the playhouse without interrupting the action.  Seven scenes, each exemplifying a different aspect of staging or lighting practice, are performed by Hattie Morahan, Monica Dolan, Michael Matus, Jamie Glover and Michael Brown.

The DVD also contains a wide range of supporting documentary material including interviews with prominent academics (Andrew Gurr, Gordon Higgott), demonstrations and analysis of original practices in staging, costume and make-up (including original-practices costumes by Jenny Tiramani, costume designer at Shakespeare's Globe).  There is also a computer-generated VR model and access to a regularly updated website.

The Chamber of Demonstrations research project was funded by the AHRC and produced for the University of Bristol by Ignition Films.

Martin White is Professor of Theatre at the Department of Drama, University of Bristol.  He has published widely on early modern drama and theatre practice, directed numerous plays and has worked as an adviser to the Globe reconstruction in London and to the Royal Shakespeare Company. He recently contributed to the BBC Radio 4 programme, A Very Theatrical Revolution, marking the 400th anniversary of the opening of Shakespeare’s indoor playhouse, the Blackfriars.

Buy The Chamber of Demonstrations DVD (£17.99 direct from the website, or £20 via Amazon).

Some reviews of The Chamber of Demonstrations DVD:

It feels as though you're actually “there”.  It’s truly a great achievement, and an absolutely invaluable teaching and research resource. Mark Pilkinton, University of Notre Dame

I was delighted by The Chamber of Demonstrations: the opportunity to  see experiments with lighting and staging is invaluable.  The multiple perspectives on the scenes are really wonderful, a revelation. Lois Potter, University of Delaware

Fascinating and illuminating, easy to navigate. Signy Henderson, Middlesex University

This is a fantastic resource.  Really fine balance of semi-formal  interview, lecture, example, interaction, and efficient teaching  throughout.  Lloyd Kermode, California State University