This March go and see The Dead Shepherd, on at The White Bear in Kennington. This piece of new writing targets with bulls eye precision every desire that a theatregoer could possibly have. In a deft delivery of compelling escapism this performance will take you under and throw you up for air, refreshed and remembering why you love the fringe.
Covering the shadowy events that led to the murder of prolific and celebrated playwright Christopher Marlowe, the audience is introduced to the major players of the early modern stage. And what a stage it was; quiet and unprepossessing Will Shakespeare, the scapegoat Thomas Kyd and of course the devilishly handsome and charismatic Christopher ‘Kit’ Marlowe, make up the triumvirate knot of alluring young poets cresting their wave and dominating the playhouses of London. Then there are the flamboyant Lords who want to claim a piece of a poet, financially, narcissistically and bodily. And, ever threatening, at the periphery of their magnetic force, is the dogmatic persecution of the villainous Sir Robert Cecil and his lackeys who seek to stamp out their supposedly dissident ideas.
It is this threat which makes the play timely. As, globally, the public are able to express their opinions more boldly and more publicly, so the establishment seeks, in both forceful and subversive ways to repress views which undermine their own authority. This tension, though not overt, is subtly felt in the atmosphere generated by The Good Shepherd which portrays the meetings of ‘The School of Night’, a prohibited venture where free and enlightened minds meet to discuss religion and philosophy, often voicing subversive views. Coupled with Kit’s dual identity as both agent of the state and artist, the story is a murder mystery of the highest order which uses beguiling historical fact and creative license to snare its audience. This is original and fresh theatre that covers a period we are all romantically attached to, but with relevance and purpose; it is sexy and comedic, tense and full of intrigue, brimming with entertaining characters and of course bubbling over with romantic love.
Beautifully cast, each and every actor deserves utter commendation for their performance and their commitment to the production shines through; passion and dedication leak out of every word. Production-wise it is not flawless but on the fringe scene it is ever so much more rewarding to see theatre that is lovingly and thoughtfully brought to life over productions that have had money and no talent thrown at them. The adeptness of the script by Robert Pope and Ian Dixon-Potter is evident. It is expertly structured, and the language use is convincing rather than archaic. It resists the overuse of early modern text using subtly enticing references just enough to remind us why we all love it rather than out of laziness or dependence. The costumes are simply and aptly chosen and the music enhances the action without distraction. This production truly is artfully created and directed. Suitable for absolutely every demographic including children, the show is the perfect length; without a hint of self-indulgence this performance leaves the audience wanting more rather than less. It is a completely satisfying piece of theatre.
As ever there is bound to be circumspection amongst the early modern purists, whatever their leaning, but the creative license at work here claims nothing other than to tell a story and it achieves that with aplomb. The Dead Shepherd is on at The White Bear until the 28th March. I urge you to go along for a playful and entertaining evening that is guaranteed to dig out your copy of Tamburlaine.
Review by Annemarie Hiscott
The Dead Shepherd
1615: A reclusive former playwright, mysteriously retired at the height of his powers, recounts a harrowing tale to the daughter of his estranged patron. He recalls how he began his career in the shadow of Christopher Marlowe, poet, heretic, sodomite, spy and the greatest playwright of the age.
1590: Young Will Shakespeare, newly arrived in London, falls in with Marlowe and is introduced to The School of Night, a secret society whose subversive gatherings come to the attention of the most powerful man in England, Her Majesty’s Secretary of State, Sir Robert Cecil. Will is plunged into a sinister world of lies, conspiracy, betrayal, torture and revenge, culminating in Cecil’s decree to have Marlowe’s seditious mouth silenced for ever.
1593: As twilight falls across the Deptford Strand a scream rings out from a rooming house on the filthy dockside. Marlowe is dead, taking with him the dark secrets of Elizabeth’s court to an unmarked grave.
The Dead Shepherd is a new play about Christopher Marlowe by Robert Pope & Ian Dixon-Potter.
10th – 28th March 2015
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Sundays at 4.00pm
Tickets: £14 (£12 concessions)
Phone Bookings: 0844 8700 887 (£1.50 booking fee per call).
Online Booking: www.whitebeartheatre.co.uk (no booking fee)
White Bear Theatre
138 Kennington Park Road
Friday 13th March 2015