Monday, July 10, 2017

SG | Downton Abbey: The Exhibition

I am a history buff.  I love learning about the past.  So it comes as no surprise that any type of entertainment set in days gone by leaves me utterly fascinated.  Be it books, films, and of course, TV shows.

The most (relatively) recent fascination in this regard I've had is with the Downton Abbey series.  This 6-season series show tells the life of the fictional aristocratic Crawley family and their servants set in the early 20th century.  Needless to say, I was one of their legions of fans who were heartbroken to see them end their series run.  😞

However, what keeps me my interests alive are the rumors of a movie in the making (which I am seriously hoping would happen soon), and events like these -- Downtown Abbey: The Exhibition!

Downton Abbey: The Exhibition aims to bring the Downton Abbey magic to their fans via a showcase of props, costumes and sets used in this delightful TV series.  And their first stop just happens to be here in Singapore!!!  😍

I wouldn't let this one pass.  So I booked a ticket online, said bye to the family on a sunny Saturday afternoon (at least for a few hours), and happily skipped (not really but I was sorely tempted to do so) to the Sands Expo and Convention Centre located at Marina Bay Sands (where the exhibit was being housed).  

To say that the exhibit left me astounded is an understatement!  With over 50 pieces of costumes (not including other props!) used in the show coupled with historical tidbits about life during the time the series was set, it is truly a treat for any Downtonian Abbey Head  fan of the show.

The tour starts with a brief intro by Julian Fellowes (a.k.a. the genius behind the show) himself!  Well his videoed self anyway.  πŸ˜ƒ He gives visitors a bit more insights into how the show was developed and what makes it so intriguing.

After his talk, Mr. Carson the butler comes in (played by Jim Carter)  who warmly (albeit with a quick swipe at the clothing choices of people today) welcomes you to the "big house".

The next room showcases each major character, giving visitors a brief summary of who they are, some background info about the character, and some historical tidbits of life back then.

There are cases of props associated with each main character, everything done with exquisite detail.

It's quite hard for me to say who my favorite Downton Abbey character is.  Like majority of fans, I too have quite a few.  Some have been favorites since series 1; others have become a fave in the middle of the show's run.  But the one character who I have always been drawn to would be Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by none other that the magnificent Dame Maggie Smith (and you know she's a fan fave since she has one of the best showcase areas ever!)

In a way, you could say that one of the reasons why I love the show is that, aside from the historical perspective, each character's story and personality is written so well.  They have their flaws and their interests, but they evolve.  So a character who was made up as a "villain" in the first few seasons (think Thomas Barrow a.k.a. Robert James-Collier) eventually learns the error of his ways and repents in the end (and as a fan, you also find yourself rooting for him as well later on 😊).  

Although the series uses Highclere Castle for its exterior shots plus the drawing room, dining room and library scenes (among others).  For the rest, sets were done and filmed in a London studio.

So like any great exhibition, the in-studio sets were brought in and reconstructed for fans to enjoy.  Starting with sets from scenes "below" the house.

The servants' dining hall.  Also the place where the servants frequently did their smaller chores for the family. 
Back staircase in which the servants used to go "upstairs".
Kitchen.  Fan fact: The kitchen table was cut a bit shorter to help accommodate Lesley Nicol,who plays Mrs. Patmore in the series.
This Exhibition wouldn't be complete without showing a lot of costumes!  Although at this "part" of the house, it was mostly the servant's livery and uniforms that were shown.

There is an interactive booth that allows you to "apply" for a job at the big house.  Funny thing is, it tagged me as suitable for the position of cook because of my outspoken attitude.  Apparently, cooking skills (of which I am sorely lacking in) is not a main criteria here.  😁

The next section is reserved to show the world "upstairs" the big house.

Lady Mary's bedroom
Wedding costumes used during wedding scenes in the series
And more costumes!
One of the most fascinating sets would be for the formal dining room.

See that huge screen on the wall.  It starts off looking like an ordinary painting (pictured above), then slowly changes to an informative video that tells visitors about dining etiquette during the period.

This particular section (pictured above) shows new inventions and innovations introduced during the early 20th century.  Telephones, electronic machines; these may sound ordinary to us now but back then, were considered marvels of technology.


At the end of the exhibit, you are of course, escorted out by the masters of the house -- Lord and Lady Grantham, with a little help from Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.

This is truly an exhibit that any fan of the show must go to!   If you're living in Singapore (or find yourself here), head on over to the Sands Expo and Convention Centre to catch it before they close on 31 July 2017!

For fans who are not in Singapore, fret not, as this is just the first stop in a multi-city, five-year tour that will include stops in Australia (Sydney), USA (New York) and Canada (Toronto).  😊


Downton Abbey: The Exhibition
Basement 2, Hall F 
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
1 Bayfront Ave
Singapore 018971

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