I can honestly say that I had never imagined I would ever see a production that came so near to recapturing what it must have been like to see the plays as they were intended to be performed, or that would shed so much light on how much could be expected of juvenile performers.
The boys handled Lyly’s language with ease and panache. This is the first time I have seen Lyly performed by actors who are not distracted by their characters’ tendency for wordplay… Edward’s Boys delighted in the language their characters delighted in, allowing the wordplay to lead them as they spoke.
They are our modern day “Little Eyases” as the companies of boy performers were referred to in Hamlet. But in fact the exercise is much more than that, and should I think be seen, as it deserves to be, in the wider context of Shakespeare study and performance worldwide…for me as a Shakespeare director, with particular interest in the repertoire of these contemporaries, these productions have proved invaluable… Forgive me for going on at length, but I think the school is producing something rather miraculous, and I suspect it is too easy for that to go unsaid. So I am saying it.
Edward’s Boys must be the bravest company in the world of early modern theatre. They fearlessly take on dramatists who have been ignored by other theatre companies, demonstrating how much early modern creativity and excitement we all overlook. Their work is a peculiar fusion of scholarly breakthrough and theatrical joy: miss them if you dare!
Those who were privileged to see the little eyases of KES playing The Dutch Courtesan will really understand what Shakespeare was talking about: the common stagers in the Courtyard behind the new science block have good cause to be rattled.
More than any other theatre company, including the best of the professionals, Edward’s Boys are in the vanguard of exploring the theatrical style of Thomas Middleton and other contemporaries of Shakespeare… They are clearly leading the way in the exploration of early modern plays using an all-boys cast. Those of us privileged to see these productions are learning about a key aspect of the production of plays in Shakespeare’s period. We are also seeing excellent productions of plays that are insufficiently performed, and, above all, enjoying some memorable evenings in the theatre.
Edward’s Boys never fail to delight with their always lively and committed performances of plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Avoiding theatrical archaeology, they nevertheless offer deeply suggestive insights into the practices of the all-boys’ companies that performed both comedies and tragedies – too often neglected by our professional theatre – by writers such as John Lyly, Thomas Middleton and John Marston.
Edward’s Boys are a firm fixture on the map of the English theatrical scene—and they have also changed the map of how we think about early modern theatre (not just boys’ company plays). The boys – of all ages – are simultaneously innocent and knowing in performance, keeping city comedy teetering on the brink of send-up and making revenge tragedy able to confront its own excess.
Edward’s Boys’ revivals of plays by the likes of Lyly, Middleton and Marston have informed and transformed my thinking about early modern drama and children’s company plays in particular. No modern revivals can give us concrete answers to our questions about the plays or their performance style, but over the last few years Perry MIlls’ lucid and imaginative productions have asked the very best kinds of questions.
Edward’s Boys are a revelation. Anyone who is interested in early modern plays in performance ought to see them. In terms of physicality, proxemics and embodiment, they open up new theatrical horizons for even the most experienced twenty first century theatre goer; they challenge complacency about theatrical norms; they are also extremely entertaining.