Behind the Arras

Tapestry, tapistrye, tapesserie… beautiful words to get your tongue around and all derived from the Latin ‘tapetium’ but it was the description ‘Arras’ (originating from the Flemish weaving town of the same name) that made it through to Shakespeare’s writing. On Saturday 6 December the V&A’s Tapestry Gallery will be the setting for a new approach in tapestry drama. Lights Alive! Youth Theatre in association with Theatre Collections at the V&A invites young people (age 13 ‐ 16) to create performance work inspired and informed by different aspects of the museum’s collections. This term it has been the turn of the Tapestry Gallery to be the starting point for their creativity and the three schools within the project are to return to perform in the gallery space on Saturday. Talking with Lights Alive! Theatre Group, Tapestry   Gallery, V&A (left). Lights Alive! Theatre Group discussing The Three  Fates tapestry (right) My involvement was to provide an introduction to the world of tapestry: the design and making, why tapestries were fashionable and the myths and stories that are contained within them. The massive Devonshire Hunting Tapestries are like the scenes of an epic Mediaeval film frozen into one huge storyboard; the characters in each tableau waiting in turn to act out their story. Throughout, the strict social hierarchy of the Middle Ages is evident both in costume and occupation, and in telling details like the one below from The Deer Hunt. Here, a Nobleman is taking advantage of his status to dally with the Miller’s wife or daughter (who needs Sex in the City), the disgruntled Miller looking on powerless to intervene. The Deer Hunt   detail museum no.T.205 - 1957 Starting proceedings at 11.30 ‐ 12.00 are the young people from Norwood school who are concentrating on ideas informed by The Three Fates tapestry (top right) and the world of the Greeks. From 1 ‐ 2pm South Camden Community School and St Marylebone School are drawing inspiration from the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries for their performance. I’m extremely sad not to be free to come to London this weekend to see their work. It’s very exciting to have the museum galleries used in this way and I urge you to go if you are in the area. Poor old Polonius met his maker behind the arras in Hamlet; it will be fascinating to see how the groups weave a plot from these woven tapestries.