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Rome: City and Empire

22 September 2018

Just back from Canberra where I went to do some preliminary archival research for a possible future project, and to attend the opening last Thursday evening of Rome: City and Empire. The exhibition, a collaboration between the British Museum and the National Museum of Australia, has brought to Canberra some two-hundred Roman objects and artefacts from the British Museum’s collection.

Part of Rome: City and Empire are two audio tours of the exhibition—one for children and one for adults. I was the writer of the Children’s Audio Tour and a co-writer of the Adult Audio Tour, both produced by Sonar Sound (Wes Chew, Luke Mynott & Candace Wise.)

Although opening nights are often not the best contexts in which to view work, I found it incredibly exciting—and moving—to see in real life the objects I’d written about. I think what most surprised me was the scale of the artefacts. Some were so much larger than I’d pictured them, many were much smaller. It’s one thing to look at a photograph and read that, for example, ‘a lamp in the shape of a gladiator’s helmet’ measures 82.3 millimetres, it’s altogether something else to see it in a glass case and realise how tiny it is.

Before working on the audio scripts for this exhibition I knew very little about Ancient Rome. Hadrian’s Wall, various foodstuffs and bits of half-remembered school Latin and that was about it. But it’s sparked my interest in things Roman, and sown the seeds for new ideas. And got me wondering … although we see quite a lot of Greek drama on our stages, we hardly ever see a Roman play. Why is that? Thanks to the reading and research I did for the scripts I can now name several Roman plays (and other literary works) that would be great to adapt for twenty-first century audiences.

Rome: City and Empire runs until the beginning of February. Plenty of time for me to make a return visit to Canberra and spend a bit more time in the fascinating world of the Ancient Romans.

From → Audio

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