“Their majesties King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria command you to roister with them in the lastest court masque, Tempe Restored. Shed your earthly body and ascend to the spheres as a celestial being or glory in your grossness as a beast. The Maker of the Masque is the gatekeeper of your desires.”
This summer, Banqueting House on Whitehall will come to life with the sights and sounds of the masque, recreating the lavish entertainments that were once so popular in the early Stuart Court.
Masques were not masked balls but a cross between a ball, a play and a fancy dress party. The charity, Historic Royal Palaces and JB3 Creative have teamed up to transform the only surviving part of the Palace of Whitehall into an immersive theatrical exhibition.
This weekend, for the first time in nearly 400 years, the masque, as experienced by Charles I, returns to London. This one off event captures the best elements of the original masque, including live theatre and dancing with audience participation. On arrival, guests will be given the role of a celestial being or a gross beast (and a glass of wine to encourage them) in the Undercroft, King James I’s orginal drinking den. Tickets are £28.
For the rest of the summer, the Performing for the King exhibition will give visitors a chance to go ‘backstage’ and find out how the famous Inigo Jones worked – not only did he design the entire building but also these performances and brought several features to the English theatre (such as moving scenery) that we now take for granted.
There’ll also be opportunities to try on costumes, learn dance steps and join in with the recreated rehearsal of the masque Tempe Restored, last performed at the site in 1635. And if the excitement gets too much for you, there’s a small ‘chill-out zone’ where you can admire the famous Reuben’s ceiling from the comfort of a beanbag or head downstairs to the cafe.
The delightful cast, including the divine Queen Henrietta Maria and the genius Inigo Jones, are on hand to answer any of your questions (and ignore the fact that you’re not very good at dancing) as they rehearse for the masque in this family friendly exhibition.
Adults – £5 / Under-sixteens – free.
These spectacular performances were once only reserved for the king, but this summer everyone’s invited!
Tickets are available from the Historic Royal Palaces website.