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The First Playhouse at Drury Lane Symposium Report

Earlier this year, the BSA was pleased to sponsor the following event at the London Metropolitan Archives. Lynne Wainwright reports on how it went.


On the 9th September 2017, The First Playhouse in Drury Lane: a symposium on the Cockpit-Phoenix was held at the London Metropolitan Archives. Dr Eva Griffith and Liverpool John Moores’ Dr Rebecca Bailey led the event with the assistance of interns Alina Burwitz and Lynne Wainwright also of Liverpool John Moores. Advertised through a successful social media campaign, the symposium sold out the week before it took place with promoted papers given by leading academics researching early modern drama. With chronologically ordered, publicly accessible papers given, general enjoyment was notably enhanced by the professional actors and musicians paid for through ticket sales alongside a British Shakespeare Association grant.

Jessica Eucker and Oliver Doyle ('Musica Antica Rotherhithe') with lutenist Peter Martin. Photograph by Anthony Bellon.

Jessica Eucker and Oliver Doyle (‘Musica Antica Rotherhithe’) with lutenist Peter Martin. Photograph by Anthony Bellon.

Dale Mathurin (L) and Tunji Kasim (R). Photograph by Anthony Bellon.

Dale Mathurin (L) and Tunji Kasim (R). Photograph by Anthony Bellon.

Drs Griffith and Bailey introduced the day with the help of actors Charlotte Moore, Dale Mathurin, Joseph Furey and Alina Burwitz who performed an excerpt from James Shirley’s The Young Admiral. Lunch was accompanied by Monteverdi specialists Oliver Doyle and Jessica Eucker of Musica Antica Rotherhithe to the tones of harpsichord (played by Oliver), as well as lute and theorbo (Peter Martin), ushering the delegates into an early opera-hungry atmosphere – for seventeenth-century opera was first performed in public at the Phoenix. The second part of the symposium was introduced by the beautiful voice of Jessica singing Monteverdi, followed by a medley of scenes, from numerous dramatic entertainments by Davenant, Beaumont, Webster, Ford, Heywood and Shirley, all once performed at the playhouse.

Cassie Layton. Photograph by Anthony Bellon.

Nigel Hastings, Cassie Layton and Tunji Kasim were added to the ensemble where the comedic timing of Hastings, Moore and Mathurin had the whole room laughing. The tragic Tis Pity scene between Layton and Kasim was a highlight, whilst Joe Furey’s country-accent was pitch perfect for Shirley comedy. Jason Morrell created and led fluid interpretations, breathing life into a number of neglected plays that certainly deserve to be resurrected.

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