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Back Under the Dome

Members of the Archives & Museum’s staff recently returned to the Imperial War Museum’s Dome, formerly Bethlem Hospital’s chapel, to see a site-specific production on particular moments in the history of the building which had been devised and performed by students at London’s famous Brit School for Performing Arts and Technology. A large part of the students' inspiration had come from material available on the Archives & Museum’s website. Images from the collection of lantern slides formerly used by Geoffrey O’Donoghue, Hospital chaplain from 1892 to 1930, and stories of real Victorian-era patients gleaned from its historic casebooks were weaved into the production. One young actor took the guise of Revd. O’Donoghue leading a chapel service in 1844 with remarkable aplomb, while four others played the part of named patients with seriousness and dignity.

It may seem churlish to point out that neither O’Donoghue nor any of the patients would have been born in the chosen date of 1844, that the hymn that was sung as part of the ‘service’ was only written some twenty years later, and that the tune to which it was set was composed in the 1980s. None of these facts spoilt the appreciation of the invited audience for the students’ efforts, notwithstanding the presence of at least one pedantic archivist within their midst. We understand that this is the first of several outputs of an innovative collaborative effort between the Brit School and the Imperial War Museum. We wish both parties every success in their joint endeavour, and will be keeping an eye out for the talented performers whose work we were privileged to see. As previously noted, and as advised in the most recent issue of our quarterly email newsletter, we expect to be back under the Dome in September to assist with the Museum’s 2011 Open House Weekend efforts. For further details, keep an eye on this blog, and to subscribe to our newsletter, email your request to [email protected].

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Photo by Ta’Kara Grant-Nguyen (The BRIT School)