The prisoner-of-war theatre, Portchester Castle
Since 2013, Kate Astbury has been working with English Heritage at Portchester Castle on the Napoleonic prisoner-of-war theatre. She advised on the reinterpretation of the space when a new permanent exhibition was installed in 2017 and has worked with two theatre companies, Past Pleasures (2017), and Southsea Shakespeare Actors (2022) to stage plays by the prisoners.
A BBC South piece on the performance of the prisoners' melodrama Roseliska in 2017 can be watched on YouTube: Dr Katherine Astbury discusses the lives of Napoleonic prisoners - BBC South Today - YouTube
|Les Murs sont témoins | These Walls Bear Witness|
Her research, and that of Abigail Coppins, was used as the basis for a sound installation by internationally renowned artist Elaine Mitchener MBE entitled |Les Murs sont témoins | These Walls Bear Witness| in 2019. She has also worked with the National Youth Theatre on a new play, The Ancestors, by Lakesha Arie-Angelo (2021), which used as its starting point a play about the revolution in Haiti written and performed in 1807 by French prisoners of war.
A Warwick Arts Faculty at home video recorded by Kate Astbury about the project with the National Youth Theatre can be seen here: Film 26: Freedom and Revolution - YouTube
The Caribbean prisoners of war at Portchester Castle
Since 2002, Abigail Coppins, currently a PhD student being supervised by Kate Astbury, has been painstakingly uncovering details of the lives of the 2500 prisoners of war from the Caribbean brought to the UK during the French Revolutionary wars. Abigail is a public historian and archaeologist who has worked as a curator and researcher for English Heritage and has produced exhibitions at Portchester Castle and Stonehenge. She co-curated the award-winning permanent exhibition at Portchester Castle about the Black prisoners of war (2017) and her work was the basis for a sound installation in the keep by internationally renowned artist Elaine Mitchener MBE entitled |Les Murs sont témoins | These Walls Bear Witness| which brought together her research into the Caribbean prisoners and Kate Astbury's research into the prisoner-of-war theatre of the Napoleonic period (2019).
Abigail's research underpinned the English Heritage Shout out Loud and National Youth Theatre Freedom and Revolution project which culminated in an on-site staging of a new play about the women revolutionaries of St Lucia and St Vincent brought to Britain as prisoners of war, The Ancestors by Lakesha Arie Angelo (2021).
The World Reimagined
Abigail's research also provided the inspiration for a globe made by artist Fiona Compton to mark the launch of the World Reimagined charity. The prisoners from the Caribbean are commemorated on a globe that will be on display in Hackney from 13th August 2022. Abigail and Kate are working on educational material for the World Reimagined's educational programme for schools.
French theatre of the Consulate 1799-1804
Paola Perazzolo has been working with Kate Astbury with funding from the EU's Horizon 2020 Marie Curie fellowship scheme to prepare a calendar of performances for Paris for the early year's of Napoleon's time in power. You can read more here: Theatre of the Revolution and Empire (warwick.ac.uk)