Buvette Masthead

From the British Museum: Pompeii Live

Heather Wallace

AD 79. In just 24 hours, two cities in the Bay of Naples in southern Italy were buried by a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Preserved under ash, the cities lay buried for just over 1,600 years, their rediscovery providing an unparalleled glimpse into the daily life of the Roman Empire.

From the bustling street to the intimate spaces of a Roman home, this major exhibition will take you to the heart of people’s lives in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Starting a film review by saying I love the British Museum might seem odd, but bear with me, there is method to my madness.

As I was saying, I love the British Museum, and my greatest desire is to be locked in overnight so I can roam around the collection entirely on my own. Any time I’m in London, I make a point of dedicating a couple of days to visiting it. As much as I love it, there are times when I’ve thought “this would be even better if I could look at the objects and eat a choc-top at the same time!” Try this for real though, and you will find yourself swiftly escorted from the museum’s hallowed halls.

So imagine my delight when I read the British Museum was broadcasting a special event to cinemas around the world, including Dendy and Palace Electric right here in Canberra. Thanks to Pompeii Live I was immersed in the British Museum’s latest blockbuster exhibition without enduring a 24-hour plane flight! Being a Roman history buff, the chance to see objects recovered from the volcano-destroyed cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum was a dream come true.

I quickly discovered other benefits to exploring the collection this way. I go to a lot of exhibitions, I am a museum junky, and the one thing I’ve found is that there is a certain serious, contemplative atmosphere to the experience. Even if you go with friends and have had a glass of bubbly first (which I so often do!), you’re still expected to keep your giggles and guffaws to a genteel undertone.

This wasn’t the case with Pompeii Live, where an engaging group of curators were happy to get into the down and dirty of the exhibition, and the audience in their comfy seats responded with plenty of laughs.

I don’t want to give you the impression that it’s all a bundle of laughs though, after all this is the story of how thousands of people died in horrific circumstances. It doesn’t shy away from that fact, but it does balance the horror with a look at what daily life would have been like before the volcanic explosion.

From a look at jewellery and crockery recovered from the drains of Herculaneum to a painted atrium garden and a lesson in using an ancient oven to bake bread, the 90 minute tour was well paced, informative and very entertaining. A particular highlight was the gleeful insights of Cambridge academic Dr Mary Beard, taking us through painted frescos showing a bar scene. She happily pointed out pictures of couples snogging, and didn’t blanche at translating a piece of graffiti calling an unknown person a ‘fellato’. Think about it for a moment and it’ll come to you…

Of course it doesn’t replace the experience of seeing these fascinating objects in person and if I had the chance I’d be there like a shot. But there are advantages: you get to devour a choc top at your leisure without a security guard telling you off; you’re saved the time and expense of overseas travel; and you get to be part of a world wide experience from the comfort of your cinema seat.

So if you like your high-brow with popcorn on the side, pop along to some more of Dendy’s art screenings!

Upcoming Art Screenings at Dendy

Ballet: Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty

Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty is a sumptuous, gothic fairy tale with a twist on the traditional story. This is an exquisite re-imagining, darker than other productions, but sprinkled with Matthew’s trademark humour and wit.

With vampires and evil fairies this production will appeal to a whole new ‘Twilight’ generation, as well as the more traditional dance fan, which will appreciate the masterful choreography. It is a telling of the story that will appeal to young and old alike.

  • Sun 8 Sep, 1:00pm
  • Thu 12 Sep, 10:00am

Met Opera: Turandot

Director Franco Zeffirelli’s breathtaking production of Puccini’s last opera is a favourite of the Met repertoire. TURANDOT follows the story of a princess whose hatred of men is so strong that she has all suitors who can’t solve her riddles beheaded. That is until she meets a mysterious unknown prince.

  • Sun 22 Sep, 1:00pm
  • Thu 26 Sep, 10:00am

National theatre Live – Othello

The National Theatre presents a major new production of William Shakespeare’s celebrated play about the destructive power of jealousy. Starring Olivier Award-winning actor Adrian Lester (Henry V at the National Theatre, BBC’s Hustle) in the title role opposite fellow Olivier Award-winner Rory Kinnear (The Last of the Haussmans, James Bond: Skyfall) as Iago.

  • Sat 12 Oct, 1:00pm
  • Sun 13 Oct, 1:00pm

Great Art on Screen – Vermeer and Music: The Art of Love and Leisure

The National Gallery, London, is offering a major exhibition on one of the most startling and fascinating artists of all-time Johannes Vermeer, painter of the Girl with a Pearl Earring. Vermeer painted little more than 30 works that still exist, and the National Gallery has chosen to focus on his art in relation to music. Music was one of the most popular themes of Dutch painting and revealed an enormous amount about the sitter and the society.

  • Sat 19 Oct, 10:00am
  • Sun 20 Oct, 1:00pm

Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (http://mythsandmisadventures.blogspot.com.au/), is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author