Category: Read Not Dead

Read Not Dead 3 December: Cast AnnouncedJoining us for our next…


Andy Secombe and Beth Eyre


Charlie Ryall and Clark Alexander


James Wallace


Jeremy Booth


Joe Eyre


Karen Whyte


Lydia Bakelmun


Oliver Lavery


Peter Wicks and Robbie Capaldi


Sam Jenkins-Shaw and Timothy Blore

Read Not Dead 3 December: Cast Announced

Joining us for our next Read Not Dead event on 3 December (Massinger’s The Bashful Lover) are:

Andy Secombe, Beth Eyre, Charlie Ryall, Clark Alexander, James Wallace, Jeremy Booth, Joe Eyre, Karen Whyte, Lydia Bakelmun, Oliver Lavery, Peter Wicks, Robbie Capaldi, Sam Jenkins-Shaw and Timothy Blore.

Buy tickets >>

Read Not Dead 3 December: Cast AnnouncedJoining us for our next…


Andy Secombe and Beth Eyre


Charlie Ryall and Clark Alexander


James Wallace


Jeremy Booth


Joe Eyre


Karen Whyte


Lydia Bakelmun


Oliver Lavery


Peter Wicks and Robbie Capaldi


Sam Jenkins-Shaw and Timothy Blore

Read Not Dead 3 December: Cast Announced

Joining us for our next Read Not Dead event on 3 December (Massinger’s The Bashful Lover) are:

Andy Secombe, Beth Eyre, Charlie Ryall, Clark Alexander, James Wallace, Jeremy Booth, Joe Eyre, Karen Whyte, Lydia Bakelmun, Oliver Lavery, Peter Wicks, Robbie Capaldi, Sam Jenkins-Shaw and Timothy Blore.

Buy tickets >>

The Elder Brother: Cast AnnouncedOur next Read Not Dead event is…

The Elder Brother: Cast Announced

Our next Read Not Dead event is a reading of The Elder Brother by Philip Massinger and John Fletcher (published 1637). 

We are delighted to announce the cast joining us this Sunday 17 September (L-R):

Charlie Ryall, Emma Denly, Harry Russell, Henry Everett, Jeremy Booth, Jonathon Reid, Michael Watson-Gray, Monty D’Invernno, Peter Wicks

Find out more and buy tickets >>

Cast Announced for Sapho and PhaoThe Read Not Dead ground rules…

Cast Announced for Sapho and Phao

The Read Not Dead ground rules are simple. Actors rehearse the play on a Sunday morning and present it, script in hand, to an audience later that afternoon.

Our next event takes place this Sunday 27 August with a reading of John LyLy’s Sapho and Phao.

The cast joining us on Sunday are:

Suzanne Ahmet, James Askill, Oliver Bennet, Selina Cadell, Emma Denly, Tim Frances, Nat Graham, Bella Heesom, Lucy-Rose Leonard, Patrick Walshe McBride, Alex Mugnaioni, Emma Pallant, Rebecca Todd, James Thorne, Leo Wan, Rowan Williams

Pictured: Title page of Sapho and Phao, John LyLy (1584)

Who was John Lyly? This August sees two plays by John Lyly come…

Who was John Lyly?

This August sees two plays by John Lyly come to the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. 

The Woman in the Moon, an astrological sex comedy, plays by candlelight for three performances only, followed the next week by a fully staged reading of Sappho and Phao for our Read Not Dead project, in conjunction with Before Shakespeare.

So who was John Lyly?

Well, he was England’s first great playwright, the most successful writer of fiction of his day, who out-sells everyone for the next sixty years. He was also a novelist, theatre impresario, pamphleteer, politician and courtier. Yet now, Lyly is virtually unknown.

At the age of just 24 Lyly was the literary sensation of his time. Short, well dressed, addicted to tobacco, his first book, The Anatomy of Wit, published in 1578, and its sequel, Euphues, his England made him, and his new style of English, the one to imitate; the epitome of fashionable wit – the Oscar Wilde of his day. 

Photo: A 1587 printing of Euphues, John Lyly, Thomas East (printer), Gabriel Cawood (publisher): Folger Shakespeare Library Digital Image Collection

Working for the notorious Earl of Oxford in the 1580’s, his plays were first performed publicly at the indoor theatres of Blackfriars and St Paul’s, then at the great Court festivities of Elizabeth I. Before Lyly, no printed play had ever run into a second printing in a single year. His first, Campaspe, ran to three.

He revolutionised romantic comedy, creating a new sort of dramatic prose, glittering with wit, beauty, and a mischievous sense of fun. Taking love as his great theme, in all its sweetness and bitterness, he wrote plays that were clever, funny, mysterious, magical, joyous, and profound. Shakespeare’s comedies are influenced more by him than by anyone else.

Lyly’s plays are filled with artists and philosophers, soldiers and shepherds, rascally schoolboys and love-struck court ladies. We meet astrologers and alchemists, witches and wise women, mermaids and monsters. Trees talk. He brings the Gods, the planets, the earth and the moon, onto the stage to act. His takes us to Classical Athens, to Tudor Rochester, from the pre-Christian sea-shores of the Mediterranean to the Saxon riverbank of the Humber. From Arcadia to Phrygia to Utopia, from a literal no-place to a cosmological everywhere. He is both Greek and Roman, and, at the same time, quintessentially English.

He’s also surprisingly modern. I’ve staged all eight of his plays for Read
Not Dead
, and he has been the biggest discovery of all. Actors and audiences
have fallen in love with him. His language has a clarity that makes him easier to
understand now than any of his contemporaries. And he’s still really funny.

Lyly shows us dreamworlds of metamorphosis and change. He challenges sexuality, desire transgressively crossing boundaries of class, sex, of the human and the supernatural. The victor falls in love with the captive, a royal lady falls in love with a lowly ferryboy, two girls falls in love with each other. The Earth loves a man who is in love with the Moon.

Lyly writes more for women characters than any of his contemporaries. “It is no
second thing to be a woman” he declares. Women are rulers, and can master the Gods. In his Utopia, even the first creator of man-and-womankind, the universe and everything, is a she.

In and out of favour with the Queen, he kept finding himself in trouble. He was
accused of witchcraft. He became entangled in religious controversy. His plays were banned, and his theatre closed down. Twice.

Ultimately, it’s in Shakespeare’s plays that we most see Lyly’s enduring influence. In the ‘great feast of language’ of Love’s Labour’s Lost. In the verbal sparring between Katherine and Petruchio, and Benedick and Beatrice. In Falstaff we see Endymion’s Sir Tophas, and Mother Bombie influences both Errors and Merry Wives. In the Dream we find Midas’ donkey’s ears and The Woman in the Moon’s supernaturally influenced love chase. In Twelfth Night and As You Like It we see the boys dressed as girls dressed as boys of Gallathea, and also the father-daughter relationship of Prospero and Miranda.

Yet since then, Lyly has been largely forgotten. With notable exceptions, C.S. Lewis among them, nineteenth and twentieth century critics have neglected and disparaged his plays, without ever having seen them in performance.

Read Not Dead has shown that neglect to be baffling. Tastes change. Marlowe went unstaged for centuries, and even Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy had to wait until 1969 for professional revival. Re-appraisals can take a long time, and one is more than overdue for the plays of John Lyly. 

This August, you have the chance to be part of that rediscovery – come and join us!

Photography by Robert Piwko 
Words: James Wallace, Director of The Woman in the Moon

Cast Announced For Read Not Dead: MucedorusThe cast have been…

Cast Announced For Read Not Dead: Mucedorus

The cast have been announced for our next Read Not Dead event this Sunday 16 July.

Joining us for the reading of Mucedorus are (left to right): Rhys Bevan; James Askill; Tim Frances; Mary Doherty; Sam Cox; Lucy-Rose Leonard; Edward Elgood; Emmanuel Kojo; Rowan Williams

This Sunday morning, these actors will be given the script. By the afternoon, they perform in front of a live audience.

These one-off performances are instinctive, adrenaline driven and inventive. Come and share in the excitement of reviving these forgotten plays that definitely deserve to be Read Not Dead.

Watch the trailer >>

Mucedorus was the play that never looked back

Our next Read Not Dead event takes place on Sunday 16 July and actors will be looking at Mucedorus, a play published in 1598.

Ahead of the event, Dr Peter Kirwan, Associate Professor in Early Modern Drama from the University of Nottingham, looks at why this play was so frequently performed at the time…

image

Photo: Title Page of Third Quarto of Mucedorus, 1610, from Wikipedia (Public Domain).

What happens when Comedy and Envy get into a fight about who is more powerful? The answer, Mucedorus – perhaps the single most popular play ever performed on the London stage.

Mucedorus and Amadine are two of the unluckiest star-crossed lovers in the early modern dramatic canon. Not only is Amadine a princess and Mucedorus a shepherd (at least, so he says…) but they have to contend with the menagerie of villains thrown at them by Envy: a ravenous bear, a jilted suitor, a disaffected soldier, and finally Bremo, the cannibalistic self-proclaimed “King of the Forest”. It’s a breathless romp through the motifs of romance, with a high body count and a hilariously irreverent sense of humour.

Mucedorus went through more printed editions than any other in the seventeenth century, played repeatedly at court, on tour and in the London theatres, and was revised at least twice to take into account changing monarchs and developments in taste. These days, it is best known as part of the so-called ‘Shakespeare Apocrypha’, thanks to a spurious attribution in the 1630s (and some still argue that he wrote the additional scenes in the third quarto). But the play’s anonymity didn’t stop it being regularly performed, quoted and referenced.

It’s hard to pin down what made Mucedorus so popular, but its experimental intermingling of slapstick comedy and genuine threat, sympathetic romance and high adventure, may well have been part of it. Mucedorus complicates simple genre categories, offering non-stop entertainment. As Mucedorus and Amadine face one challenge after another to their love, the play keeps its audience guessing about the eventual outcome.

Any play that starts its main action with “Enter, pursued with a bear” sets up high expectations, and Mucedorus never looks back. This Read not Dead is a rare chance to see one of the most innovative, entertaining and unexpected plays of its time.

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Photo: In our Read Not Dead series, actors are given the play on a Sunday morning and present it, script in hand, to an audience later that afternoon. 

Book tickets online for the Mucedorous event on Sunday 16 July.

Read Not Dead: Fedele and Fortunio – Casting NewsWe’re delighted…

Read Not Dead: Fedele and Fortunio – Casting News

We’re delighted to reveal the names and faces behind this Sunday’s Read Not Dead staged reading of Fedele and Fortunio, by Anthony Munday.

Deirdre Mullins directs Munday’s early modern comedy, with John Hopkins, Rhys Bevan, Emma Denly, Patrick Walshe-McBride and James Wallace making up the cast.

Join us for the performance at 4.00pm on Sunday 18 June in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Buy tickets.

Learn more about the play Fedele and Fortunio.

Read Not Dead: Fedele and Fortunio

Dr Andy Kesson, Principal Investigator behind the Before Shakespeare project, takes a look at the history of Anthony Munday’s Fedele and Fortunio, the next play in our collaborative Read Not Dead and Before Shakespeare programme.

The
Read Not Dead series offers especially unusual opportunities to play with old
plays and make them new, precisely because they often have no performance
history after the seventeenth century. 

Fedele and Fortunio is, we think, the fourth surviving play from
the London playhouses, and the fifth such play to be printed. But it is the
first of these early plays to look like a comedy as conventionally understood –
to look, that is, much like a Shakespeare comedy. Men and women are in love
with one other in productively cross-purpose sorts of ways, provoking plots,
counterplots and cross-dressing, and also a bunch of courtship techniques that
are perhaps a bit less conventionally Shakespearian: necromancy, games with
urine, nets and partial nudity, that sort of thing.

This
play provides a point of connection between the comedy of Ancient Rome and the
future comedy of early modern London and Paris. Everything happens on the
street, and characters are constantly going in and out of houses, seeking
nooks, crannies and privy corners in which to hide or speaking through windows.
This draws on the Roman comedy of Plautus and Terence, but is also explores the
possibility for privacy in a relentlessly public world that The Comedy of Errors, Much Ado about Nothing or Measure for Measure would go on to explore (think, for example, about the
length of time these plays spend at doors that do not open on command, windows
through which people might be seen having sex, or in streets displaying those
shamed for sexual misdemeanours). 

The great thing about Read Not Dead is that
these old plays are now new: they represent lost traditions, lost stage
possibilities, lost opportunities for actors and audiences.

Our Read Not Dead Fedele and Fortunio staged reading takes place this Sunday 18 June, 4.00pm. Buy tickets.

Read Not Dead: The Forgotten Plays Revived What is Read Not…

Read Not Dead: The Forgotten Plays Revived

What is Read Not Dead?

The ground rules are simple. Actors are given the play on a Sunday morning and present it, script in hand, to an audience later that afternoon.

The performances are instinctive, adrenaline driven and inventive. Actors and audiences alike share in the excitement of reviving these forgotten plays.

Find out more about our early modern play project and see what plays are coming up.