This time in November is an emotional one in any year but especially in this 100 year anniversary of WW1. At the Shakespeare Institute Library we thought it important to mark this centenary commemoration in some way – and what better way than to connect with our neighbours.
Our exhibition this month focuses on a production of Henry V staged by Frank Benson and the King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon in 1913. The play was restaged a century later by the Edward’s Boys under the direction of Assistant Headmaster, Perry Mills. The theme of the exhibition provided us with a great way of linking our subject specialism with our local community and this important anniversary.
It’s not often I get emotional putting out an exhibition but in this case it is impossible not to be deeply moved by the stories and images of the KES boys involved in this display. The loss inflicted by the First World War is too unbearable to contemplate. In our exhibition we tell the story of 4 boys, Victor Hyatt, Herbert and Henry Jennings and Albert Whately who only a few years after performing in the 1913 production lost their lives in the war. Their loss is brought painfully home to us – four of millions that died in that war.
When putting together this exhibition it struck me that, considering how Henry V has been used to represent conflicts following WW1 it’s almost as if Frank Benson had some dreadful premonition of the significance of the play to our country at War.
The production, we can tell from the prompt book was very heavily edited and reduced to key scenes and a series of tableaus. The 2013 revival of the play, directed by Perry drew on this 1913 production and the tragedy of war that followed. From the accounts and descriptions of the 2013 production it was an incredibly moving affair, fitting to the memory of those boys. A clip and more details of that production are available via their web site.
Indeed The Edward’s Boys seem to go from strength to strength under Perry Mills’s guidance and we’re very pleased to house copies of the DVDs of their productions in our collections. The standard of the productions and indeed the art work for these by local artist David Troughton is equal to many professional productions.
The archive material kindly loan from KES Archivist Richard Pearson, is complimented beautifully by material from our own collections: books, theses and other material written about Shakespeare and War. Our sincere thanks to KES and Richard for sharing this archive and this story with us and enabling us to alert our students to a very long tradition of performance at the school – there’s a theses in there!
The exhibition will continue until the end of the month – do come along and catch it if you can.
You can find out more about the 2013 production on Sylvia Morris’s excellent Shakespeare Blog.
Many thanks to Anne Phillips, Information Assistant at the SIL for all her work on this exhibition.
Karin Brown, Shakespeare Institute Librarian