Students help curate RSC exhibition

15th December 2022

Fashion and Make Up for Stage & Screen students recently had the wonderful opportunity to undertake work experience with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).

The students were invited to assist in curating part of the RSC’s new The Play’s The Thing exhibition content. The Play’s The Thing is a permanent exhibition, re-opening in April 2023, located at the RSC’s theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon offering a unique insight into the history of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon since 1879.

Fashion students at RSC
Fashion and Make Up For Stage & Screen students visited the RSC to get inspiration from the current exhibition

The students were tasked with picking five costumes from the RSC’s archive that they felt reflected them and focused on the theme of identity.

Jo Crawshaw, Engagement Officer from the RSC’s Creative Placemaking and Public Programming team, explained why the students had been invited to take part: “We wanted to have many different voices to co-curate the exhibition. Young people are the best to see how our costumes represent them. Also, Fashion and Make Up students may want to take their profession in this direction so it’s useful work experience.”

To begin, the students were able to go around the current exhibition to get a feel for the lay out. They then visited the RSC’s archive and were able to see the wealth of material they could choose from.

Students were able to ask questions about current costume items and had a discussion about what they would like to see in a new exhibition

The students loved the experience! Alana Black who is a second year Fashion student commented: “I really want to go into costume design and have always been on the look out for work experience at the RSC. So when this came up I was very excited! It’s amazing to have a company so local but that is so well known that we can work with and also be able to show off how we have been involved.”

Anya Clutter who is also in her second year on the Fashion course added: “It was great to look around the exhibition and see the range of different outfits and styles and their development over time.”

Louisa Figus, who is a Fashion lecturer at the College, was pleased for the students to receive this opportunity: “It was amazing for students to gain an insight into the world of costume design for theatre. Helping the RSC teams to curate their new exhibition enabled the students to understand the context of costumes through selecting costumes that portrayed identity. Through research and investigation through primary resources, the students were able to explore the deeper meanings, symbolism and history behind the costumes.

We are so proud of the students’ contribution on the day. We hope this has given them some food for thought in terms of potential career avenues in costume and theatre.”

The students work will be on display when the exhibition reopens in April 2023.

Rachel Sharpe, Creative Placemaking and Public Programmes Manager at the RSC, said; “We are really excited to be co-curating The Play’s The Thing with communities in Stratford-upon-Avon. The workshops will be a great opportunity to understand the stories, productions, costumes, and objects that resonate with people at this moment in time.”

First year Fashion students also had a work experience opportunity with the RSC, this time with RSC Freelance Associate designer Roz Shabazz-Johnson. She visited the students at the College and lead a wreath making workshop with the results being showcased as part of the RSC’s Festive Trail, where the public is encouraged to visit businesses across Stratford-upon-Avon searching for a trail of wreaths.

The students created three wreaths based on current RSC production A Christmas Carol. Each wreath was inspired by a ghost: Past, Present and Future.

The Play’s The Thing – Co-curating Collections

Spring 2023 marks the launch of a new RSC project co-curated with three Stratford-based community organisations, each of which have had little to no previous engagement with the RSC.
The focus will be The Play’s The Thing, the RSC’s permanent exhibition which offers unique insight into the history of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon since 1879.
Through a series of workshops, the groups will select items from the RSC Collection which will combine to tell the story of performance in Stratford-upon-Avon through the eyes of its residents.
The chosen items will form part of the newly re-launched The Play’s The Thing exhibition, which will re-open to the public in April 2023 following a three-year period of closure due to the pandemic.
The three community groups taking part in the project include GAGA Yarn Bombers: a network of local knitters and crocheters who collaborate on yarn bombing (yarn-based graffiti) projects in the local area, Welcome Here: a support group for refugees new to the UK and second-year fashion students at Stratford-upon-Avon College.
The Co-curating Collections project has been made possible by ArtFund support; the national fundraising charity for art. ArtFund provide millions of pounds every year to help museums to acquire and share works of art across the UK, further the professional development of their curators, and inspire more people to visit and enjoy their public programmes.

Find out more about the College’s Fashion course: Fashion course