SINGAPORE: The award-winning series may be over, but fans of the hit British period drama Downton Abbey will have a chance to relive the moment and get a peek at the lives of the lavish Crawleys and their not-so-lavish servants at a new exhibition at Marina Bay Sands.
The interactive Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, which opens on Saturday (Jun 17) at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, will feature some of the iconic sets and a host of costumes and props from the show created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes. It starred the likes of Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Jim Carter, who played the butler Carson, and Michelle Dockery, who became known for her role as Lady Mary Crawley.
The touring exhibition is making its world premiere in Singapore, and some of the cast members as well as creator Fellowes will be gracing a red carpet event at its official opening on Jun 21.
The decision to first present the exhibition here was partly due to its immense popularity in the region, said Sarah Cooper, chief operating officer of NBCUniversal International Studios, which created the series.
“It has a huge following in Asia, and was enormously popular in China, Malaysia, Indonesia; wherever it ran, it achieved record ratings, so we knew there was a very enthusiastic audience here for it.”
The show’s executive producer, Liz Trubridge, revealed that one of her most prized possessions was the award for Best Foreign TV Series from this year’s Shanghai International Film and TV Festival.
“I had no idea we would be popular in China or indeed in any Asian country, and I’m thrilled that we are,” she said.
In fact, Downton Abbey has been cited as one of the reasons for the current trend among China’s elite to hire butlers.
First aired in 2010, the show ran for six seasons until last year. During its run, it collected accolades from the Golden Globes and the Emmys. It has been sold to 250 countries and is considered the most internationally successful British drama in recent decades.
Downton Abbey revolves around the lives of an aristocratic family and its servants living in a fictional country estate in Yorkshire during the early 20th century. The personal stories are framed by the many historical and social events that took place during that time, including the sinking of the Titanic and World War I.
The exhibition will feature detailed, recreated sets from the series, including the servants’ hall, the workplace kitchen, and the Crawleys’ dining room. Among the interactive elements is a section where visitors can “apply” for a job as one of the servants at the estate, while the exhibition gift shop includes not only merchandise but also a cafe where one can have some afternoon high tea.
Also on display are props that depict the changes that took place at that time, including the introduction of electricity and telephones. And then there are the elaborate costumes from the 1920s, which have been one of Downton Abbey’s biggest draws.
“I think the reason why the programme succeeded is that it’s fundamentally about these characters and how they react when placed in extraordinary times," said Cooper.
“It’s a fascinating period of social change in Europe that would really go on to shape the rest of the 20th century. And we know that the costumes are partly what our fans became very passionate about. People became really increasingly fascinated by the artistic and design history of the period, the costumes, the settings, the props."
Added Trubridge: “The show was a privilege to work on. We spent (a total of) three years of our lives on these sets and it feels a bit like home."
After Singapore, the show is expected to travel to the United States and other countries.