Early Liz I (1558 to 1575ish)

Yes, we know, following the reigning monarch isn’t necessarily the best way to break up time periods, but it sort of works and… well what you gonna do. As per other pages, the order of staging is rough and plays live on longer and longer as printing extends their lives…

We’ll also just mention now – the 1560’s and beyond are incredibly experimental. The surviving texts fly in so many different directions that it’s difficult to get a handle on what’s what. It may be that theatre was always this wild, and we just don’t have the surviving evidence, or that these are genuinely experimental times.

1560

Thyestes by Seneca, translated by Jasper Heywood – though primarily a text to be read, this is one of ten Senecan translations that were hugely influential to later theatre styles. First Look Exploring Session – more to come.

Robin Hood and the Friar by the Unknown – these two plays may be representative of earlier Robin Hood texts, though they come to us from around about now. A full cast audio adaptation has been produced and we’ve run workshops on the play. So, more might be on the way.

Robin Hood and the Potter (fragment) by the Unknown – (see above) Full Cast Audio Adaptation available on the podcast. Also part of some work we’ve workshopped elsewhere, so more may be coming.

1561

Gorboduc by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville – or The Tragedy of Porrex and Ferrex – exploring sessions available and future plans are in the works. There are soooo many videos workshopping this play… and we ain’t going to stop – full playlist below, start with the First Look – or skip to the Second Look here.

Tom Tiler and His Wife – an exploring session is available.

There is also this version available on YouTube which was produced for the UCL Centre for Early Modern Exchanges – directed by Dr Emma Whipday and produced by Dana Kovarik.

Patient Grissell by John Phillip – if you enjoy problematic content like Tom Tyler (above), then continue your journey with this play.

The Pedler’s Prophecy attributed to Robert Wilson – possibly dated a LOT later than this (especially if by Wilson). This is a really problematic play as it features a lot of unpleasant anti-immigrant dialogue. It’s also really weird. We’re very interested in workshoping some of this text in the future to figure out what the play is trying to do. Exploring session available.

1565

King Darius by Somebody/s – we recorded an exploring session and it threw up so many questions about what the hell this play is. It’s either a genius work of experimental theatre or it’s… a bit of a mess. Or both. Either way, watch the videos. Other elements recorded and on their way soon.

Damon and Pythias by Richard Edwards – exploring session of this rather amiable play is available.

The Cruel Debtor (probably) by William Wager (Fragment) – TWO exploring sessions are available – one on the podcast below and another as part of a general fragments session on YouTube.

1566

Supposes translated by George Gascoigne – a super fun translation of a play by Ariosto. We commend this play to the house – First Look Exploring Session available.

We haven’t done much more than a first read yet, but the has had an outing elsewhere. The Young Actors Company produced this version in 2017, directed by Sam Plumb. We discussed the play with Sam and a member of the cast, Riana White, for the podcast. There is also a documentary about the production that can be found here.

Apius and Virginia by R. B. Both First and Second Look Exploring Sessions available on YouTube. Skip to the fast paced Second Look here, or watch both videos in the playlist below.

Jocasta translated by George Gascoigne and Francis Kinwelmershe from Giacasta by Lodovico Dolce, homeopathically connected to Euripides’ Phoenician Women. (Basically Dolce added a new Act One, full of backstory, otherwise the play follows the general shape and argument of Euripides – the English collaborators added additional Dumb Shows – possibly the dumb shows were devised by Christopher Yelverton – he has form with dumb shows – who also wrote an epilogue). First Look Exploring Session available.

Gismond of Salerne by Robert Wilmot – technically what we’ve got here in this First Look Exploring session is the later reworking of the play published in 1591, but it’s very similar and we haven’t got around to the earlier version yet. The Second Look session was quite full on.

The Bugbears by John Jeffere – this is a wonderful play. Yes, it’s got some damage to the manuscript, and there is a lot of exposition, but it has brilliant insults, comic business, and 50 ways to say someone is pregnant. First Look exploring session available on YouTube.

1567

Horestes or Enterlude of Vice by John Pickering – a genre hopping, episodic take of the story of Orestes, that needs more exploration.

The Trial of Treasure by William Wager – Exploring session available on YouTube.

1568

The Marriage of Wit and Science – there’s a lot of marrying of wit, science and other such devices. This is variation two, following on from The Play of Wit and Science, and will be followed by a later Marriage play. Exploring session starts about an hour into this playlist.

Enough is as Good as a Feast by William Wager – there’s a lot to like about this play. Our discussion led us to many modern parallels.

Like Will to Like by Ulpian Fulwell – or, Like Will to Like, quoth the Devil to the Collier. We’ve run workshops and First Look Exploring Sessions in the playlist, but have also returned to do a fast paced Second Look below.

The fast paced Second Look run of the show – some gremlins in the tech, but you get a bit of a show.
Full playlist of Like Will to Like material…

1569

The Most Virtuous and Godly Susanna by Thomas Garter – the play could date as early as 1563, but we’ve left it here for now. CW: we were expecting this to be a lot more problematic as a text, dealing with a story of sexual assault. The playwright has instead fashioned a play looking primarily at the slander of Susanna and presents a number of startlingly modern scenes. First Look Exploring Session available.

The Longer Thou Livest the More Fool Thou Art by William Wager – this is a deceptively complex play that demands more exploration. Which is sort of what we do. Exploring session available in two parts on YouTube

Cambyses by Thomas Preston – Earliest dating places the play around 1560/61, though it feels like it belongs a little later. First Look Exploring session available below, Second Look run through available here, and more work is coming on the prologues and epilogues.

1570

Misogonus by the Unknown – this is a fragmentary text, missing the ending and many patches of dialogue, possibly dating later in the decade. Fitfully very funny, with some copper bottomed scenes, though also peppered with problematic material.

Clyomon and Clamydes by some guy you know – this is the earliest this play could live – but it has a long life, so we’ll probably add it into a later page too. It’s a fabulous tale of two knights trying to do knightly things – later taken up by the Queen’s Men. And much fun is had by all. WE LOVE THIS PLAY!

July and Julian by someone certainly. This is pretty much the latest date we can place this play, but it could date much earlier. It is, however, a hoot. The script is almost impossible to get a copy of in a modern form, but the manuscript is digitized and available online. First Look Exploring Session available.

Processus Satanae (Fragment) – This could go much earlier, it’s really difficult to place. We’ve produced a play around version of the surviving text, as Satan sues God for raiding Hell for Adam and Eve.

1571

New Custom – Exploring Session available on YouTube. A full on debate drama, be prepared for some serious talk.

1572

The Conflict of Conscience by Nathaniel Woods – based on a true story, but produced as a generalised morality play. Slightly different texts give the play alternative endings. Like the film Clue, just more depressing.

1575

Glass of Government by George Gascoigne – Exploring Session available.

An Interlude of Minds by Hendrik Niclaes and translated by Christopher Vittels – published this year from a Dutch play – though the two may have come to the world hand in hand – this is an interesting morality play that is something of an outlier.

The Chester Mystery Cycle – “What?” we hear you cry – we’re well into the early modern by now, what’s this doing here? Well, this is the last gasp for Biblical drama, the tradition is pretty much dead from here on in – but it’s important to remind you that until this point these plays are always there in the background. A little less often as time passes, but still there. Until about now. Now they shift towards memory.

And what’s next? Well, for most of this page of time there have been lots spaces where regular performances occur. Let’s call them Playhouses, because that’s what they were. Next up, some people start getting more organised, and do a bit of speculation. Some slightly bigger playhouses are a coming…