prestigious Ashmolean museum, hallowed home of antiquities - founded
on a theft?
Waugh's short play investigates the murky circumstances surrounding
Elias Ashmole's 1683 donation of the Tradescant Ark to the University,
a donation that formed the basis of the museum that we visit today.
basement of the Museum of the History of Science, original site
of the Ashmolean, was a highly appropriate and atmospheric setting
for the first performance of 'Ashmole and the Ark'.
all honesty, however, this was not so much an attempt at serious
drama as an innovative exposition of the complex history of Ashmole's
Booth played an elderly Ashmole on the eve of his presentation of
the Tradescant Ark to the University.
he prepares his speech for the occasion, he is assailed by the ghosts
of both the wife that he married for money (Polly Mountain) and
the Tradescant husband and wife (Bill Moulford and Alex Reid) from
whom he inveigled the treasures.
of the actors took to their parts with gusto, a red-faced Booth
quivering with rage throughout as he defended his actions.
dialogue remained unavoidably stilted, however, and sometimes difficult
to follow for an audience with no previous knowledge of the Ashmole/Tradescant
nevertheless managed to capture the central ambiguity of the Ashmole
story - that whilst the Ark may have been acquired under dubious
circumstances, without Ashmole it would never have achieved the
recognition that it continues to have to this day.