The Roses of Eyam by Don Taylor
To be held on Sunday 23rd June 2019 @ 2:00pm
at Browne's Hospital, Broad Street, Stamford
This remarkable true story tells of a village in Derbyshire stricken with plague through the arrival from London of a box of clothing. The villagers make a heroic decision, persuaded by the present and former Rectors, to prevent its spread by remaining within the village and containing the disease at the certain risk of their own lives. As the plot unfolds, we experience the human tragedies and even comedies that ensued and the idealism and the courage required to live within that idealism.
There was a brilliant television adaptation of the play in the 1970s and since then there have been several successful large-scale professional and amateur productions. In 2010 “The Roses of Eyam” was chosen as the inaugural production for the new Louche Theatre in Aberystwyth, and in 2015 a promenade production, involving 52 villagers, was performed in Eyam village to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the actual happenings.
Live music is played throughout our production to set the scene and to create the authentic atmosphere of 17th Century England. Traditional English folk songs have been chosen to fit with the action of the play. There are tunes particularly associated with Derbyshire and tunes from the collection of John Playford, a 17th Century collector and publisher of dance music.
The play begins as educated Anglican clergyman the Reverend William
Mompesson receives the living from his benefactors, the Saville family.
A 'King's Man', he is replacing the previous Puritan incumbent, Thomas
Stanley who remains in the village embittered by his dismissal, and this
leads to a division between Royalist and Roundhead supporters.
Meanwhile, the villagers put aside their differences to dance at the Harvest Festival. But, during the festivities, local tailor George Vicars takes delivery of a large consignment of clothes from London and within days the village is stricken by plague. Families shut themselves away in their homes fearing that contact with others will invite the infection.
With the onset of cold weather in autumn the number of cases falls but rises again when the warm weather comes in spring. An exodus of the village begins but Mompesson and Stanley put aside their differences to persuade the villagers to stay put until the plague is over. The villagers are reminded that if they leave, they will be welcome nowhere and will die as outcasts and vagrants, taking many other innocents with them. The villagers voluntarily decide to isolate themselves. Food is left for them by the county High Sheriff at stones marking the limits of the quarantine.
As the play evolves the audience moves from location to location and the action intensifies as the village empties. Two young lovers, separated by the quarantine, attempt to meet each other in the hills away from the village.
Some humour is included by the mad orphan boy "Bedlam" who sings and dances through the worst times and the two cantankerous old yokels Unwin and Merrill who pit their wits against each other as they continue to survive against the odds.
Relevance to schools Don Taylor’s renowned play has enjoyed worldwide popularity in educational circles and has been a set text in many British schools for students of English Literature and Drama. Many schools within striking distance of Eyam take their students from Years 5 and 6 and upwards to the village, and in the past three years alone 18,754 children have visited Eyam museum with their teachers. The educational resources they provide can be found on the website http://www.eyam-museum.org.uk/education.
Stamford Shoestring Theatre Company
Stamford Festival Association Ltd