5 Excellent Reasons To Catch The Pepys Show At Greenwich

By Londonist Last edited 32 months ago
5 Excellent Reasons To Catch The Pepys Show At Greenwich

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Pepys was partial to a spot of pornography, Stuart-style. Portrait of Nell Gwyn after Sir Peter Lely, 1678. Courtesy of the Army and Navy Club, London.

You've only got five weeks left to catch Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution at the National Maritime Museum. If you haven't already seen it, here's five reasons why you should get yourself to Greenwich, pronto.

1. Pepys lived an amazing life

Not many people have bunked off school to see the execution of a king, undergone an operation without anaesthetic or antiseptic and survived the Great Fire of London. Fewer have also pursued a successful naval and political career while remaining an irrepressible gossip, socialite and womaniser. Pepys did. There's something here for everyone, from history buffs to maritime geeks, theatre lovers to soap opera fans.

Imagine having a bladder stone the size of snooker ball removed from your innards with one of these. Medical instruments c. 1650, courtesy of the Royal College of Physicians.

2. His London was a roller coaster ride

Time travel back to the tumultuous period spanning from the execution of a homegrown king to the bloodless arrival of a foreign one, from the Glorious Revolution to the scientific one, from civil war to battling against the Dutch, from Great Plague to Great Fire. You couldn't have a better tour guide to all this than diarist and man-about-town Samuel Pepys.

Another great guide is Clare Jackson (The Stuarts, BBC Two), who takes a look at A New Life of Charles II on 22 March. She'll introduce you to this intriguing king with tales of execution and exile, lasciviousness and luxury.

The blaze that changed London's history forever. The Fire of London, 1666, unknown artist, 17th century. Courtesy of the National Maritime Museum, London.

3. We all love a bit of sex and scandal

And the Stuarts did sex and and scandal in spades. Charles II mixed affairs of the heart and affairs of state, Pepys slept his way around town and both are documented in salacious detail in the latter's amazingly thorough diaries. This was real-life soap opera stuff, with a cast of characters with everyone from politicians to prostitutes — enough to pique the curiosity of even the most jaded red-top readers.

4. You can get a free concert thrown in

Turn up to the museum on 27 February and contemporary vocal ensemble Reverie will emerge from behind every display. Music hath the real command over the soul is a site-specific soundscape, an interactive and immersive musical response to the show.

Then on 18 March there's the a special late opening until 8.30pm for The Deptford Diaries, another musical reaction to the exhibition. Hear new orchestral pieces composed by emerging talent and performed by the neighbouring Trinity Laban Contemporary Music Group.

Guitar, Italian, 17th century, courtesy of the Horniman Museum and Garden

5. It's a really, really good exhibition

Pepys's diaries may be squirrelled away at Magdalen College, Cambridge, but pretty much everything else to do with the great man is here: over 200 paintings and objects from museums, galleries and private collections from across Britain and beyond. This is blockbuster stuff — the largest ever Pepys exhibition, one not to be missed.

To get even more bang for your buck, trot along on a free curator's tour to delve even deeper into Pepys's life and times.

Samuel Pepys: Plague, Fire, Revolution is at National Maritime Museum, Greenwich until 28 March 2016. Tickets are £12 adult/£6 child.

Last Updated 19 February 2016