So Long Lives This (2009)

Eastgate Theatre: 28th February and 19th March

Biggar Municipal Hall: 27th August

Cardrona Village Hall: 29th August

Written and Directed by Sarah Chapman

Elizabeth and Essex, Shakespeare and Southampton – “fair youths”, player-playerwrights and “dark ladies” – all touched each others’ lives and left amazing marks on ours. An evening with Shakespeare and his circle, dramatised in Sonnet, Song and Dance.

Act 1

London in the late 1590s. Queen Elizabeth I is still on the throne, though growing old, and her unruly favourite, the Earl of Essex, is a populat hero with huge ambitions. The setting of hte play alternates between Drury House, the London home of Shakespeare’s patron, the young Earl of Southampton, and teh private appartments of the Queen. Southampton’s mother, assisted by Shakespeare, wants her son to marry Lord Burghley’s grand-daughter, but he has other plans. Shakespeare’s ‘Dark Lady’ is head over heels in love with Shakepeare and when the latter’s secret marriage is revealed, she and Shakesperae reflect bitterly on their feelings for the young Earl and for each other. The Queen has Southampton and his pregnant wife imprisoned in the Fleet prison – in separate cells! – but is persuaded by his mother to let them out. The Countess does not want her grandchild to be born in gaol.

Act 2

It is 1601. Essex leads a senseless rebellion which has terrible effects on Queen Elizabeth as well as on Southampton, Shakespeare and Essex himself. The wild behaviour of her former favourite forces the Queen to let him be condemned to death. Shakespeare and his company get off lightly, but Southampton is saved from death only by his mother’s desperate intercession with the Queen. The Queen herself is shattered by events. Her death brings to an end a brilliant era where a woman could defy the misogyny of powerful men. The arrival of King James from Scotland marks the beginning of a very different cultural climate.