From the evocation of an Elizabethan theatre to the most beautiful costumes of Hamlet, the different facets of the Shakespearean universe are unveiled at the National Center for Stage Costume in Moulins. On the occasion of the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, the exhibition transports its visitors through the most emblematic plays of the most performed author of Western theatre, thanks to a choice of more than one hundred costumes worn mainly on the French scenes for a century, from Mounet-Sully to the most recent productions.
Immersion in an Elizabethan theatre
The visitor begins his journey by entering a space evoking the Elizabethan theatre. It is in these circular wooden theatres , in which the stage juts out into the middle of the audience, that most of Shakespeare’s plays were performed. The reconstruction of one of these theatres still exists today in London, it is the Shakespeare Globe’s Theatre . This institution is dedicated to the representation of the Elizabethan repertoire in different styles, in particular through the reconstruction of the conditions of representation of this period. We can thus discover in Moulins some costumes of Richard III designed by Jerry Tiramani in a production by Tim Carrol .
Twelve rooms to appreciate the diversity of the Shakespearean world
Visitors are then offered the Shakespearean world seen by the French stage, where the great history and the daily life of the people coexist, realities, beliefs and dreams, the terrestrial and the aerial, the tragic and the farce, seriousness and carnival, past and present.
Kings, queens or simple soldiers, jesters, witches and spirits, young girls in transvestites, these characters tell through their costumes ever-current stories of love and betrayal, of power and freedom, of quests and mourning, of failures and of success. Whether they are historical or contemporary, sumptuous or refined, sober or disproportionate, these costumes reflect the point of view of directors and costumers of each era on Shakespeare. They tell a moment in the history of the performing arts: the performers who wear them are actors above all, but also singers and dancers of operas and ballets adapted from Shakespeare.
Big names in the spotlight
The costumes worn by the greatest performers, such as Gérard Desarthe as Hamlet, Robert Hirsch as Richard III or Maria Casarès as Lady Macbeth, allow visitors to discover or rediscover striking interpretations of Shakespeare’s plays, comedies such as Les Joyeuses Commères de Windsor or The Tamed Shrew , to tragedies like King Lear or Romeo and Juliet , passing by historical dramas like Richard III and Henry VI.
This discovery is made thanks to the presentation of costumes, models and original works on loan from prestigious institutions – the National Library of France, the Comédie-Française, the Globe Theatre in London, the Théâtre des Amandiers in Nanterre, the Maison Jean Vilar to Avignon. Great directors – like Edward Gordon Craig, Charles Dullin, Ariane Mnouchkine, Patrice Chéreau – and costume designers – from Charles Bianchini to Patrice Cauchetier – are honoured in the windows of the cncs animated by the memory of unforgettable moments of theatre.
Images courtesy of Centre National du Costume de Scene