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The Play's The Thing - RSC Exhibition

Home > Birmingham > Exhibitions | Family | Performing Arts | Theatre
by Alison Brinkworth (subscribe)
Freelance journalist in Birmingham with a passion for the dynamic theatre, art, food and fashion scene in Britain's 'Second City'.
Published September 18th 2016
Interactive Fun Finding Out Secrets Of The Stage
Secrets, costumes and stories from behind the scenes at the world's most famous theatre company go on display in a new interactive permanent exhibition.

RSC, the Play's The Thing exhibition, Stratford upon Avon, Swan wing
The Play's The Thing is a family-friendly exhibition


The Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) new family-friendly visitor attraction - The Play's The Thing - opens at the Swan Theatre's Reading Room from October 22, 2016.

More than 100 years of theatre-making is on display with virtual costumes for visitors to try on via a magic costume mirror. There is also a quick change challenge to see how hard it is for the professionals between scenes, and a closer look at how gory special effects work.

The exhibition in Stratford upon Avon, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, also includes treasures and props from the archives including stunning costumes that were worn by acting greats such as Vivien Leigh, David Tennant, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Laurence Olivier and Paul Robeson.

RSC, the Play's The Thing exhibition, Stratford upon Avon, Swan wing
RSC, the Play's The Thing exhibition, Stratford upon Avon, Swan wing
The dress that Vivien Leigh wore as Lady Macbeth in 1955



The dress worn by Vivien Leigh when she played Lady Macbeth in 1955 is just one of those on show, as is the bright costume worn by former Dr Who David Tennant in As You Like It in 1996.

The Play's The Thing allows visitors to explore the imaginative ways that Shakespeare's stories, settings and characters have been brought to life on stage.

RSC, the Play's The Thing exhibition, Stratford upon Avon, Swan wing
David Tennant shown on stage in the costume


It also reveals some of the RSC's more gory theatrical secrets, including how a snapping carrot can replicate the noise of bone breaking, how crispy cereals and glue are mixed to make scabs and how actors keep soup in their mouths so they can 'vomit' on stage.

RSC, the Play's The Thing exhibition, Stratford upon Avon, Swan wing
The costume worn by David Tennant


To mark the opening, the Chandos portrait, a unique portrait of Shakespeare painted during his lifetime, will be on display for a limited time only. The portrait has lived at London's National Portrait Gallery since it was founded in 1856, only leaving the building on a few occasions since that time. It will be loaned to the RSC to sit alongside a rare first folio of Shakespeare's plays, dating from 1623.

Geraldine Collinge, Director of Events and Exhibitions at the RSC, said: "People love to find out how we make our productions and discover the many brilliant skills that go into bringing Shakespeare's work alive."

She added: "Our new exhibition opens the door to some of those secrets and stories and will give visitors access to our rarely seen collection of costumes and props. They will be able to experience theatre making for themselves with interactive digital experiences, hear from the actors who have performed on our world-famous stages, and find out more about how we create our productions today."

Front of the historic Swan Theatre in Stratford upon Avon
Front of the historic Swan Theatre in Stratford upon Avon


The exhibition is the culmination of a major project to restore the oldest part of the RSC's theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon - the 1879 'Swan Wing'. The Swan Wing partially re-opened in April 2016, with refreshed public spaces and the new site-specific artwork.

The Play's The Thing is open daily from 10am at the Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon and costs £8,50 adults with special child rates for schools and colleges of £5 from Monday to Friday. Under-5s are free. A family ticket is available where up to four under-18s have half-price entry with every full price adult ticket.
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Why? See behind the scenes into famous theatre company
When: Daytime everyday from 10am
Phone: 01789 403493
Where: Swan Wing at Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon
Cost: Varies.
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