God for Harry, England and Edward’s Boys!

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A special dispatch from Perry Mills, of King Edward VI Grammar School, Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s School), one of the most inspiring school teachers I know…

‘In recent years Edward’s Boys – an all-boy theatre company from King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon (“Shakespeare’s School”) – have been performing rarely-seen plays originally written for the Early Modern boys’ companies.

Our work has generated considerable interest in the academic community for the unique insights it offers into this material and its performance conditions, and for the quality of the productions themselves.

Edward’s Boys have performed not only in Stratford but at the universities of Warwick, Oxford, Cambridge and London, and at the RSC Swan Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and Middle Temple Hall in London.

We have performed plays such as The Poetaster (Ben Jonson), The Dutch Courtesan (John Marston), Endymion (John Lyly), A Mad World, My Masters (Thomas Middleton), A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (Thomas Middleton), Mother Bombie (John Lyly), Antonio’s Revenge (John Marston) and Westward Ho! (Thomas Dekker and John Webster).

To some extent, of course, the value of the project is for others to decide. However, it is perhaps permissible for those who have been involved over a number of years to offer their opinions. The work of Edward’s Boys has provided opportunities for:

1. The academics, for whom it offers occasional insights into what it might have been like to witness a performance by a boys’ company
2. The development of a company spirit and the inculcation of apprenticeship which has been a crucial element in the success of the endeavour
3. The development of skills as performers of early modern drama
4. Wider educational value, which has been immeasurable – within the school community in a pastoral sense, in terms of an emotional and Personal, Social, and Health Education, a curriculum useful for boys, and an appreciation of the power of the arts

In 1913 an earlier generation of boys from King Edward VI School, were invited to perform Shakespeare’s Henry V as part of the season of history plays at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, staged by Sir Frank Benson.

One hundred years later Edward’s Boys, in a departure from their usual repertoire, will be honouring Old Boys from 1913 and 1599 by performing Henry V at the RSC Swan Theatre on Sunday 17 March 2013.

The music for the production will be an edited and partially reconstructed version of the original Ralph Vaughan Williams score. locatable in the archives of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. This music was believed to have been lost but has been recently discovered by the School Archivist in the archives of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

In the original 1913 production the role of the Chorus was taken by a professional actor, and we are delighted that Tim Pigott-Smith, distinguished actor and Old Boy of the school, has agreed to take the part in our production.’

For further details about our production of Henry V click here.

For further details about Edward’s Boys click here

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

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