Shakespeare’s Place (a play in two acts) Set in 1795, the play is about the events that led to the destruction of New Place, in Stratford, where Shakespeare spent his last days. This impressive building was bought in the 18th Century by the Reverend Francis Gastrell, a short-tempered man who was not best pleased by the increasing number of admirers who came from afar to view the house and even knock on the door where the poet once lived. Gastrell fought many legal battles with the local council, especially over the poor tax he was forced to pay due to the size of New Place. Finally he was driven to make an extraordinary decision. The value of his home at today’s prices would have been well over a million pounds. But instead of selling what would have become England’s greatest national treasure, and despite public outcry in Stratford, he had it torn down. This play deals with the imagined lead-up to, and the aftermath of, this historic event. The play has four male and two female characters. The action takes place in and around what was once Shakespeare’s home. The set requirements are minimal.
Shakespeare’s Place, was recommended by Jonathan Pryce to John Caird who arranged a reading at his Highgate studio. The audience included the novelist and screenwriter Deborah Moggach and the theatre administrator Lady McIntosh.
The play was also read by Michael Pennington, author of Hamlet, A Users Guide, who toured Britain and the US with his one-man-show Sweet Will. He wrote to me:
“I well understand how Jonathan and the others liked it so much. It’s excellently done – very witty but with a surprising punch emotionally.”
FUSE created by Playwright’ Studio, Scotland had this response from an anonymous reader:
“What on the surface seems a simple story hides beneath it a more sophisticated narrative on the Shakespeare legacy (and more widely our attitudes toward our heritage) … the play asks us to think about the value we place upon the past…what gives us true wealth in our lives….the play brought me stealthily under its spell. The characters…felt real and true throughout. HART is a charming narrator, who goes on a real journey into and beyond himself. The GASTRELLS are delicious in all their hypocritical glory and AGNES a true soul who emerges wonderfully as the play progresses. I enjoyed the meta-theatrical style of the piece, its pace and light touch. It is clever and thorough. I think actors would have great fun with it…The play feels well thought through and well constructed. My instinct is that any further exploration of it should come through a rehearsal context rather than on the page. The writer’s own version feels really intact here, so it’s now down to performance context to move on.”
The London theatre management company, Tennant, once optioned a play of mine called High Fidelity, and another play, The Midnight Ride of Alvin Bloom (written with Donald Honig) was given three separate summer stock productions in the States, the first of which was directed by Alan Alda