“Fly me to the moon!”

Edward’s Boys’ Director, Perry Mills, introduces their latest production, in collaboration with Before Shakespeare, John Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon.  To read about Edward’s Boys in rehearsal at our conference in August 2017, read Perry’s companion piece on our site.

Now that Autumn and even Winter have been and gone – although Back-Winter appears to be doing his very best in and around Stratford-upon-Avon – Edward’s Boys are hard at work on their next production (some players have moved on; some have remained; some have returned).

And now we are delighted to be collaborating with the Before Shakespeare Project on –

The Woman in the Moon

by John Lyly (c. 1590)

“Herein hath Nature gone beyond herself.”

(Nature, Act I, Scene i)

Nature, the pre-eminent deity, is female and she has created the universe and all things living. Four young shepherds, residents of Utopia, complain that they have no female companion, so Nature agrees to create the perfect female figure, Pandora.

The envious gods, represented by the seven planets, decide to take revenge upon Pandora according to their dominant features: Saturn (melancholy); Jupiter (pride); Mars (aggression); Sol (poetry and healing); Venus (sexuality); Mercury (deceit); Luna (changeability).

In each subsequent scene, we see the four shepherds suffer under Pandora’s various moods, as she is influenced by one planet after another.

John Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon is Lyly’s only play written in blank verse. It is a strange, unearthly, esoteric mixture of genres and tones. Furthermore, it is a quite extraordinary investigation of female subjectivity.

It was first performed c. 1590 by “Paul’s Boys”, one of the two leading boys’ companies of the day. Edward’s Boys are delighted to be collaborating with the Before Shakespeare project, which explores the beginnings of London commercial theatre 1565-1595.

Before Shakespeare explain what’s so exciting about this collaboration:

The chance to observe Edward’s Boys at work on Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon is a rare one. In part, that’s because the company are the only boys’ company in the world performing today; chiefly, it’s because they do so with dynamism, irreverence, and attention to the surprises lesser-performed early modern plays can present audiences when staged with a mixture of playfulness and care.

Andy Kesson has explained elsewhere on this blog that “Lyly was the foremost literary figure during a period that saw the first permanent commercial theatres built in London.”  We have had the fortune to work closely with James Wallace and The Dolphin’s Back as they staged The Woman in the Moon—the first professional production of Lyly since his lifetime—including interviews with the cast about its gender politics, language, and about casting practices (and see our Woman in the Moon category tag here). Now we have a chance to see a very different approach to the play and, by Edward’s Boys’ very nature, to gender and casting.

Lyly and contemporary dramatists in the 1580s were invested, as Perry notes in this blog, in questions of female subjectivity, and the majority of such surviving plays were performed by boys’ companies. While Edward’s Boys are no magic key to the past, and have no interest in so-called “Original Practices,” they do (to adapt Lucy Munro’s remark quoted above) present a new set of questions. It will therefore be fascinating to see how talented actors from King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon body forth the The Woman in the Moon’s powerful deities and hapless shepherds and to observe the company’s sense of youthful “playfulness” at work in this most mercurial of plays.

We should count ourselves lucky to see, within the space of a year, two commercial productions of Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon. Perhaps, though, it’s indicative of the growing twenty-first century audience for a writer who helped shape and define English commercial theatre and whose influence was felt in adult and boy companies alike.

This is the fourth time Edward’s Boys have taken on Lyly, following acclaimed productions of Endymion in 2009, Mother Bombie in 2010 and Galatea in 2014.

This production sets the play in 1967, the “Summer of Love” and features ‘live’ music – a “splendid time is guaranteed for all!”

 All performances begin at 7.30pm 

Thursday March 8th, 7.30pm – The Simpkins Lee Theatre, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford OX2 6QA

Full price: £10; Concessions: £8

Friday March 9th, 7.30pm – St Mary-at-Hill, Eastcheap, London EC3R 8EE

Full price: £10; Concessions: £8

Saturday March 10th, 7.30pm – Levi Fox Hall, King Edward VI School CV37 6BE

Full price: £10; Concessions: £6

Sunday March 11th, 7.30pm – Levi Fox Hall, King Edward VI School CV37 6BE

Full price: £10; Concessions: £6

Tickets for all performances are available online via https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/kes and in person from the school Box Office.

Wednesday March 28th, 7.30pm – Playbox, Dream Factory, Warwick CV34 6LE

(Tickets available from Playbox Box Office)


“Remember all is but a poet’s dream.” (Prologus)

Perry Mills




3 thoughts on ““Fly me to the moon!”

  1. Pingback: In the Company of Edward’s Boys: Nashe’s Summer’s Last Will and Testament | Before Shakespeare

  2. Pingback: The Woman in the Moon: In Conversation with Edward’s Boys | Before Shakespeare

  3. Pingback: The Woman in the Moon, Edward’s Boys: Review by Leah Scragg | Before Shakespeare

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s