The Woman in the Moon: In Conversation with Edward’s Boys

It’s Friday, and we’re hurrying across London Bridge in the rain towards a part-carpeted Methodist Church in London’s Eastcheap: that Elizabethan-sounding nook somewhere loosely between Crutched Friars and Leadenhall (more Tudor echoes). We settle in to observe how woman was first created. Not Genesis 1:27 or 2:22, though. John Lyly’s Pandora.

Again, sheltered from the rain in a school hall-cum-gymnasium in Stratford-upon-Avon, we wait for Utopia to unfold on the star-painted mats in front of us, band in check (1960s echoes). Psychedelia with shepherds and school uniforms. It’s a different, wider stage set-up than St-Mary-at-Hill. Heavy patter of sandals on the floor, dust from space, moody bass, balloons, balloons, balloons…


Utopia after the play’s end…

Edward’s Boys are an all-boy theatre company comprised of students from King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon, who “strive to explore the repertoire of the boys’ companies” of early modern England.  Their production of John Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon, directed by Perry Mills, played across Oxford, London, and their home base in Stratford-upon-Avon this March (2018). A little later in this month it will return to Warwick before heading off to Montpellier. You can read more about the company in the words of Perry Mills elsewhere on our site here and here.


2018’s The Woman in the Moon is a visually and musically arresting show, whose performers run an extraordinary gamut of tones and emotions across this complex play—albeit one, as a number of spectators afterwards observed, whose superstructure of Gods and singular plot made the essence of the storyline surprisingly easy to follow….



Jamie Mitchell’s Luna takes control… (Credit: Nick Browning of Activpix)

Before Sunday’s performance, we borrowed some time with the actors and settled into settees next door to the Levi Fox Hall to talk about the show: the company, female subjectivity, audiences, spaces, music, age, gender, tonal complexity, and fun. Our huge thanks to Perry Mills and to the cast for taking the time to talk to us and inviting us inside a production that I’m sure I won’t be alone in thinking about for a long time.

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conversation is the beginning and end of knowledge
The Civil Conversation of M. Steven Guazzo, George Pettie, 1581

Here’s what came up in conversation… You can read the interview as a whole piece, but if you wanted to navigate to a particular topic, click on the links below to take you there:

Enjoying the production?

There’s quite a range of ages and experiences…

Have you played female roles before?

Talking Pandora

Enter the planets.

There’s a lot of suggestiveness, kissing, and sex in the play…

Are the shepherds a “band of brothers” on and offstage?

Poor Gunophilus…

Nature descends.

“Primarily” a comedy? Talking tone…

Summer of Love!

Rock ‘n’ roll (tell us about the music, man)

How do you work in such different spaces when taking these productions on the road?

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 How’s the production been so far?

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): Great fun. We’ve been on tour, and it’s been great fun. And there’s balloons… and it’s been a bit weirder than some of the others.

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): It’s just a wacky play! So much goes on. Personally, for me, seeing the seven different characteristics that Pandora puts on, and playing them, and having to go from angry to innocent to lustful to deceitful and see that development has been so much fun. And to be able to embody all those different characteristics. It’s a unique experience.

Tom Lewis (Sol): It’s been a fantastic experience so far.

Yiannis Vogiardis (Mars): And it’s been a very interesting piece to perform—especially because of what happens in the play: it’s very diverse, what happens throughout each act. One act, for example, Tom’s scene [Sol], it’s very mystical. Then we get into Venus’s scene [Ben Clarke] and it’s all about love. So it was very interesting to put it all together, seeing the different characters.

There’s quite a range of ages and experience across the company…

Johan Valiaparambil (Concord and Joculus): There’s quite a big range of experience [. . .]. So Jack [Hawkins, Gunophilus], Pascal [Vogiaridis, Melos], and Charlie [Waters, Learchus], for instance, they’ve all been in quite a lot—six or seven, since they’ve been doing it since around Year 7[/8], and then as you go down the age range there’s less and less experience. But everyone fits in really well, and people pass down the experience.

Ritvick Nagar (Stesias): So even just the four of us [Johan, Ritvik, Jamie Mitchell {Luna}, and Felix Crabtree {Iphicles}] there’s quite a wide range…

Pascal Vogiaridis (Melos): I’ve been in them right from Henry V back in 2013… The reason for that one was one hundred years beforehand, the school had put on a production of Henry V, and then a lot of the boys had gone off to fight in the First World War and a lot of them didn’t come back. So it’s moving, to then put on the production a hundred years later. Tim Piggott-Smith played the Chorus. That was quite a memorable first show. I was one of the smaller parts, because I was back in Year 8 and I was still learning the ropes. And then at the beginning of September 2013 would have been Dido, Queen of Carthage [Christopher Marlowe]—I played Hermes in that, and it’s quite funny to see another Hermes (quite a different Hermes) in this one [see more on this below]! And then Galatea, another John Lyly play, which was my big one, as I played the role of Phillida in that one. That was for me quite a big step forward: I hadn’t been used to being part of the main plot—the plot that revolved around Galatea and Phillida, so that was quite big. And then a year later we did The Lady’s Trial [John Ford], which was a very different part to Galatea: I played a part called Adurni, who was a manipulative man who was trying to get off with people’s wives: and yes, it was very different to innocent Phillida! And after that, The Woman Hater [Beaumont and Fletcher], which we took to Montpellier, as we’re going to do with this one. And then Summer’s Last Will [Nashe] last summer.

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): I suppose with the age stuff, we don’t really see it as a barrier in any way. If anything, it’s an advantage—as with the two boys playing Cupid and Joculus [Will Groves and Johan Valiaparambil]. And Jamie [Mitchell], who’s playing Luna…he looks quite convincing as a woman (because he’s young, I mean!)—we all did back in the day. And having him as the last God, it’s really advnatageous to have a younger boy who looks so convincing as a woman, but then again he is a boy. So you think, well he’s the graceful, lovely Luna, with his…fins? or whatever they are… And he’s looking like something out of Swan Lake. But there’s also this cheeky, mischievous side: that you’ve got a boy, especially a younger boy, playing them. So it’s very advantageous, I think, to have the younger and older boys.

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): It blurs the lines, doesn’t it. Which is what you could maybe say Lyly was going for. We were talking earlier about the whole, “what is a woman?” sort of thing…

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): Oh yeah, at a boys’ school… that’s a question we would never know the answer to!

 And have you all played female roles before?

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): In The Woman Hater, I played the main woman in that… I grew quite attached to my dress. We sort of consider it a right of passage.

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): You’re not an Edward’s Boy until you’ve played a woman. However it might be—whatever kind of woman. It’s something that—

Jack: It’s unique. It adds to the difference of the company.

Joe: We don’t think of it as strange… Other schools, it’s probably unusual to play woman characters…

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): They find it quite shocking, don’t they? Everywhere we go it’s quite shocking—because of the woman thing, I suppose…

Joe: In France, we did a catwalk of all the characters—when we first went there. And when the women [characters] came out, everybody erupted: it was mad, these people couldn’t believe it! That we were parading around in dresses…

 Talking Pandora…

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 Given Pandora’s frequent changes of mood and personality throughout the play—as she is controlled by the different planets and their associated humours—does it feel like playing one whole character or like taking on several different roles?

 Joe Pocknell (Pandora): When we were in the early stages of rehearsal, and you think about the text and what each line is saying, what became very clear was this idea of education. Being in a school, obviously, that was at the forefront of our minds. And as we see it, she is formed onstage. She is a baby. Physically, she’s there, but mentally she has nothing. So early on we had this idea that each influence from each planet is a lesson, and it’s almost as if she’s being taught: to be proud, to be angry, and then taught the repercussions of that. And so, whilst as a baby you grow up and you learn all of these things at once, she’s had these characteristics isolated. And that’s really interesting, because they are emphasised and pushed to the extremes, because you get one at a time. And as a result, at the end, she becomes this fully formed figure. And so I see her very much as one character, but one whose traits and personalities are emphasised one after the other and as a result are heightened.


Joe Pocknell’s Pandora (Credit: Nick Browning of Activpix)

At the start of the play, there is a moment when Pandora is “pre-born”: she has no influences and hasn’t yet been formed as a human. In this production, rather strikingly, she begins “clad” in a white winding-cloth. How do you approach this challenge?

Joe: It’s very stripped back. There’s not a lot to it. It’s experimental—from her first steps. She doesn’t know how to walk; she has to learn to walk. There’s a brilliant stage direction, “The Image walks about fearfully”: she’s new to this world, she doesn’t know what’s going on, she doesn’t know how to approach life. So I think it’s very pure. There’s not a lot of movement there; it’s simple.

Is this moment, where Pandora “learns” to be a woman at the start of the play, a parallel to your own experiences as boys and young men learning to play women on stage?

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): I see Pandora as less of a “woman” part, less of a female role, and more of a “mould” [. . .] She’s like Eve in the Bible.

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): I completely get that, because she’s had nothing before her, she’s physically a woman, and so people expect her to play to the stereotypes of women, and to be as women “should,” but as Jack says, she’s not anything before she’s born.

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): In Utopia, there’s not a woman, so there’s not a society to press anything on you as “female.” So that Image, what is that image? [To Joe]: And that’s presumably something you’ve had to work out: what are you?

Joe: Well, it’s an “Image” as it’s described initially. It’s just an image. And it’s a very interesting exploration of gender and what it means to be a woman. And the ending—many people have seen it as misgoynsitic and detrimental to women. But I have a slightly different take, where I think having gone through these “lessons,” as it were, we’ve seen her grow. From Act 1 under Saturn, she was just learning that she could hit these shepherds out of the way, and that she had this power. By Act 4 under Mercury, she’s deceiving them, she’s telling them to meet them in this place, and to come back, and dealing with one, having sex with one, going to another corner and having sex with another. And she’s just learned so much, so quickly. And then, in the conclusion of the play in Act 5, I think she chooses Cynthia the Moon—“idle, mutable, forgetful, fickle, frantic, mad”—all these adjectives that seem to be condescending to women, [but] actually because having undergone all of these different lessons, that’s the one she enjoys. And actually she has the freedom to make that choice. It’s not that she’s forced to take these characteristics but that she actually wants to.

Adam: She’s so powerful, isn’t she? In the context of the play. She turns down Jupiter, who’s the “King of the Gods”! And he’s completely subverted by you…

Jack: And also because Jupiter’s so early in the play, that obviously stresses her naivety at the same time, but also how you can push the character of Pandora, in that she does deny Jupiter, but it’s not . . . if you had a “normal” woman, you might think they would be intimidated by such a big figure. But because she’s “new”…

Adam: And she has no fear . . . there’s no conception that she should be fearful.

Jack: She’s not conforming to anything. She’s doing what she wants to do.

 Enter the planets…

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Jupiter is one of the key iconic figures of the classical Gods. In this play, though, he’s really rather ineffective and doesn’t get his own way. What’s it like approaching such an “iconic” role?

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): Yes, and as I’m going to study Classics at uni, it’s been quite exciting! . . . Everything about him is a bit of a failure in this play. He tries to act like he’s in control and in charge, at the end of the day, nothing works for him.

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): You have a line towards the end of the play: “Nature will have it so.” It’s a weird interjection at that point… None of the other gods say anything.

Adam: It can’t be “Jupiter will have it so,” because at that point I have no power. It’s the female Nature and the female Pandora that hold all the power at that point.

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): Jupiter’s just there. I don’t know if you’d find that in any other play of the period. Jupiter just being there and just doing nothing…

How do you approach playing iconic cultural figures or symbols—for the Elizabethans but also in many ways for us now?

Yiannis Vogiaridis (Mars): The first thing I looked at when I was looking to play Mars is the associations we have with him. And the first thing is red. Red is mostly seen as an abrupt colour: traffic lights… red = stop! So we took those colours, as well as the humours; the humours for red are anger and irritation. That was all part of the way we researched the characters and put them across in the performance.

Tom Lewis (Sol): I think on that note, it’s the way that the planet influences the other characters in the scene. How, for example, Mars is very angry, and therefore so becomes Pandora and hurts all the people around her. That’s quite a challenge, because from scene to scene it all changes depending on what god is onstage. But I think it’s been quite successful.

The range of age, height, and experience are spread across the different roles. Are these differences important to the production?

Jamie Mitchell (Luna): Well I think my size plays into that fact. One of my lines says that I’m the lowest, which is both saying about my stature and the role I play—I’m the smallest and I’m probably the weakest of all the gods, but I eventually win through a mix of my characteristics and how it affects Pandora.

Ritvick Nagar (Stesias): And you’re one of the planets who isn’t really a planet, as such… Which is why Jamie looks, especially with the size, quite different to some of the other planets and is maybe an underdog when you first see him. You might not expect Pandora to choose Luna.

Felix Crabtree (Iphicles): And I think an important part of the planets is the humours, and how they fit in, and so we chose the planets to help fit those characteristics—people who were good at acting that sort of way. So, for instance, Yiannis [Vogiaridis], who’s playing Mars, is quite good at being angry and powerful…

So does that mean Jamie’s good at being a lunatic?

Jamie: The amount of jokes I’ve had to endure the past few weeks…


Pandora (Joe Pocknell) falls under Sol’s (Tom Lewis) influence… (Credit: Nick Browning of Activpix)

The planets/gods present interesting challenges, because you’re ascendant for a scene or part of a scene, during which you’re onstage but you don’t have many lines. How do you approach a role where you’re in visual focus but don’t have lines to play with?

Yiannis Vogiaridis (Mars): It was quite easy to do in this company, because we have a lot of connections between all the actors. So when we’re upon the “throne,” as such, above the other characters, we’re able to have a connection with Pandora—or, as we know him, Joe—and we’re able to work with him closely, and we can change our movements when he does something. In the scene when I’m performing as Mars, he stamps on a balloon, quite angrily, and I think it was important to show the audience the planets having control over Pandora by me also stamping my foot at the same time. So we can work on the small things, and I think that makes a big difference for the audience.

Tom Lewis (Sol): I think throughout the scenes there are lots of references, so Lyly makes it quite easy for us. He’s got lots of hints, as such, to the actors. Within the scene, I might be on for twenty minutes, but won’t be doing anything for most of it. But there’s references in the blocks of speech for the other characters—Pandora, or Melos, or Stesias… For example, in one scene, there’s several references to the gods inspiring, which serves as a reminder not only to the audience but to the actors themselves that they’re under this influence.

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): I think it’s really important that we do ascend, because it shows we’re still there. But as to how much influence we have on what’s actually going on, I think it’s up for debate. Because I have one of your lines [to Joe, Pandora]—we edited that in, to show there’s still a connection between what’s going on downstage and what’s going on upstage. But I have no real control, do I?

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): I think your characteristics are fully influencing me…

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): And we’ve done it through movement and things like that. You see Seb[astian Stevens], who’s playing Mercury, does the spinning thing [moving around the stage by spinning…mercurially]…

Joe: I have things where, under Venus, lustful, I’m sort of debating which one of the shepherds I want most, which is all of them, and any of them—“any of the three,” I say—but I sort of spin, and at the same time, Venus is spinning behind. [. . .] And Jupiter says “base vassal thou art” at the same time as I do…

Adam: But it’s still your line in the original Lyly text. So I’m just joining in really. [. . .] Does it come from Pandora or does it come from me?


Sol (Tom Lewis) (Credit: Nick Browning of Activpix)

And you’ve seen different versions of different gods across the other productions you’ve done. Is it interesting to see similarities and differences between character types?

Pascal Vogiaridis (Melos): I think that if you look across playwrights, the characters might be quite similar. But I noticed a difference in this one. Back in Dido, by Marlowe, Hermes was just a messenger, getting from A to B, passing messages very quickly. I remember very pointedly in this production we were doing it as part of a meal, and so we had some 6”5, 6”6 Jove, who picked me up by my waist and lobbed me off the stage! So it’s funny to see a very different Hermes in this one, who’s does much less running about but is sly, manipulative… It’s interesting to see the different playwrights’ takes on different gods. Or maybe it’s just to suit the different play they’re trying to do…

And Concord and Discord are slightly odd characters in that they don’t have the same cultural reputation preceding them as the gods. What work did you have to do in representing your character to the audience?

Johan Valiaparambil (Concord and Joculus): Concord and Discord are Nature’s helpers, and to show our relationship with each other, it says in the text how we’re opposites and Nature brings us together, and tells us that because we’re opposites we connect in order to make the world work. Discord is less happy, and Concord happy: so I started smiling a lot, and then I would “oversmile”…

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Ben Clarke’s Venus (Credit: Nick Browning of Activpix)

 There’s a lot of suggestiveness, kissing, and sex in the play. This production totally embraces that in all its humour, occasional tenderness, and naughtiness… As a group of schoolboys and young men, how easy was it to draw these things out and run with them?

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): People were saying in the audience last night… We had an “old boy” [former student] and he said he felt guilty for laughing at some of it… And I suppose… but it’s a thing that [Perry] Mills always goes on about—how boys’ companies can do it so differently to an adult company. The sex and the kissing in this is so much more suggestive and provocative because it’s boys, at the end of the day, and that’s always going to be in the back of the audience’s mind. And I suppose it’s to our advantage that we can run with it, because it’s just another sort of factor that we have…

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): You get away with it I think. If an adult company were doing a dance where Pandora has to be seduced by Cupid and Joculus, two boys, potentially people could have some problems with that. But when it’s just a 17 year old boy with a 13 year old boy, you just run with it… It’s like, you go with it and we can get away with it and it’s accepted and allowed from the audience perspective, and for us it’s fun! So we can take it and enjoy it. Rehearsing that dance was fun.

Jack: That’s the thing: we’re all mates, and it is just really fun!

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): And it fits the tone of the play so well, doesn’t it? Because it’s a dream play… And like you were saying, if you [always] have that concern that “why am I watching it, this is a bit wierd” that would lose the tone we’re going for, which is constantly changing, funny, but also making you think. And that all fits well with us being mates. I think that helps…

 That sense of being mates certainly comes through with the four shepherds—Stesias, Iphicles, Learchus, and Melos. You’re something of a band of brothers at the start of the play, and this production presents you also as a psychadelic “band” in a musical sense. Is that dynamic something that’s integral to the production—on and offstage?

Ritvick Nagar (Stesias): I think it is. As the production goes on, there’s always the balance between school and rehearsal. And you get to a stage where you start rehearsing for longer periods of time, and the balance shifts towards the play slightly as you come up to the production week. And that’s when we all start realising how much we’ve become our characters. And so even offstage, backstage and in rehearsals, we’ll see people in the groups as their characters would be, more often. And I don’t think we even notice it eventually. For those few weeks you are Stesias, or Iphicles, or Mars, or Jove…

Felix Crabtree (Iphicles): At the beginning of the play, we do act like brothers, we’re close together. But we’re so desperate for a woman in our lives, that we sort of turn against each other and are prepared to sacrifice our friendships with each other and go behind each others’ backs or betray each other, because we’re so desperate for this woman. And it blinds us to the reality of what she is: she’s not actually that nice to us, and she deceives us! But we’re so looking down this tunnel, that the one thing we’re want we don’t stop to think about it.

Pascal Vogiaridis (Melos): One of the reasons that [Perry] Mills did cast us as the shepherds is that we do get on really well. We all have similar types of humour, which means rehearsals are fun! And then hopefully we feel that fun energy, that balance between us in real life, comes out even more in the play. An interesting thing that I’ve found—I do a lot of these plays, but outside of this I don’t do a lot of other drama. I’d like to be a doctor, I like music, I like sport… But the main reason I enjoy these is the relationships we have with each other, and it comes from that. And I wouldn’t say I’m a “good actor” at all—I couldn’t do a part like Joe [Pocknell, Pandora], where he puts all the thought into that. But for me, it’s easy to be silly and pathetic! Lots of life experience in that [cue laughter]. But I do think that idea of real life buzzingness definitely comes out, nice positive energy.


The shepherds: Melos (Pascal Vogiaridis), Iphicles (Felix Crabtree), Learchus (Charlie Waters),  and Stesias (Ritvick Nagar). (Jupiter [Adam Hardy] in the background, left) (Credit: Nick Browning of Activpix)

 Playing Gunophilus must really get you to the heart of the different tones in the play and its generic complexity. You’re playing a character who seems really to want to be in a “comedy,” but who has a pretty awful, violent end…

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): I started, and I looked at the character, and I sort of thought, “I don’t really like it…” But you grow into it and get the weird accent—

Which is?

Jack: Well… it’s somewhere in London…?
And he’s the closest character to the audience in the play. We’ve worked on it, and I deliver quite a proportion of my lines towards the audience. And when it comes to Act 5—we’ve seen it as he truly does fall in love with her. And we’ve done Act 5 so that it becomes more real, in that we’ve been in this dream world, and there’s tons of shepherds completely in love with her, and Gunophilus becomes completely indebted to her with his love. Then he gets that horrible ending. And it turned from being a jokey sort of happy-go-lucky, jack-the-lad servant to going into a character where the connection with the audience is stressed and there’s more depth to him than just the odd one-liner.

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): Interesting as well that, primarily, the focus is seen as that Pandora’s being influenced by these gods; that she’s being taken over. But more and more throughout, we see that Gunophilus is being influenced, and becomes infected almost through me [Pandora], by what these gods are doing. And as I become lustful through Venus, so too does Gunophilus. And I think that’s important—that it’s not just restricted to me, but almost everyone becomes influenced by these gods.

Jack: I think you see that especially with the shepherds as well; we tried to push that, didn’t we, with Iphicles and with [his] deceit. They’re all trying to deceive each other, and Stesias comes on dressed as Pandora. It’s definitely that it’s not only influencing Pandora but the entire world of Utopia.

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): And the gods, right? Jupiter falling in love…

Joe: Venus takes over Jupiter!

Adam: That works again with the kinds of spaces we’re using. The gods are open, they’re not always set back. The gods are all connected—Mercury’s my son. We’re always colluding, and I think there’s some crossover. Jupiter falling in love, there’s Venus there. That scene at the end with us all coming on: is that Luna influencing us there? It sets the tone, doesn’t it, for that weird changeable tone that Act 5 has.

Joe: One bit that we put in was the harmony of the spheres. Which is fundamental to understanding these gods and planets. In our reading of the play, it’s almost their final plea of love, and in making this harmony, all sounding these notes one after the other, they’re saying “come with me.” Towards the end, having seen these qualities, they’re all in love with her.

Adam: It’s strange that it’s only Jupiter who’s the one who falls in love with her throughout the play. All the planets plead with her at the end…

And Nature points out they’ve failed, essentially, to kill her—“in despite of you, Pandora lives”—but they then also want to possess her rather than destroy her…

Jack: And you have that with Stesias as well: he can’t have her, so he tries to kill her. Or it’s not so much he can’t have her… it’s less that he physically can’t have her, it’s that he can’t bear to have her. So he tries to kill her. And I suppose that pushes the thing that there’s a line between love and hate that’s very blurred, and they’re closer than you think. And I think even Nature at the end allows Luna to overtake her slightly. Especially turning Gunophilus into a thorn bush, in his terrible ending, it’s like “Oh he doesn’t really deserve that… he hasn’t done that much wrong…”, and it shows the influence of “madness” that the goddess [Luna] is having.

 Nature descends

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Adam Hardy (Jupiter): Would you say she’s indifferent, Nature, at the end, in the way she dishes out punishments?

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): I think we had interesting discussions towards the beginning of the rehearsal process about the extent to which Nature is in control and knows what’s going to happen, and knows how Pandora’s going to act. And conversely, to what extent Pandora is given free reign. And so throughout the production we have Nick, who’s playing Nature, come on at certain points, and just observe the scene. Because we wanted to maintain that presence—that Nature is fundamentally over it all and is controlling. Nonetheless, we feel that… She does let it happen, and she doesn’t necessarily know everything that’s going to happen. In that respect, she’s given Pandora free reign. I mean, it’s quite a dangerous situation. She’s created this perfect, innocent thing, and then leaves.

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): She’s like a parent, in that respect. And that goes back to that thing of education. You’ve got to let people make mistakes so that they can learn. And Pandora certainly makes a few mistakes… And that adds to the education and shows that she is learning throughout, and her actions become more complex. And at the end, she makes the right decision and Nature is there presiding over it, as if all has worked out.

Adam: So do you think you’re [Gunophilus] punished maybe because you’re responsible for her education. Like everybody in this play, it’s about Pandora, and where she is in the end. The planets can leave, and the people who have maybe made mistakes, maybe not, get punished. But at the end of the day, it is about her.

Jack: I think it’s definitely that overall; it’s Nature wanting to look after her creation. And when she can do that, she does it to her best—you see it at the end. And when she can’t, she has to let her go and let her flourish in a way, and make her own decisions.

 The production blurb notes that The Woman in the Moon is generically mixed and tonally complex but is “primarily” a comedy. Do you agree with that from your character’s perspective, and how do you deal with the plays’ complex shifts of tone?

Jamie Mitchell (Luna): I sort of see it as a comedy for the first four acts. We’ve talked about this a lot: in the fifth act, it gets darker. When the shepherds—Iphicles, Melos, Stesias, and Learchus—almost speak like they’re giving statements to the police. And they have a tone that’s really different to Melos’s earlier crying act with Pandora. It’s a much different tone, mainly because of Luna’s influence, but also because they’ve lost her to Stesias, who’s basically being driven mad by her.

Ritvick Nagar (Stesias): I think it’s possibly not a comedy, but it might be presented as a comedy. We see lots of comic moments. And puns, and funny lines, and comic scenes, but a lot of what a play is can be maybe summed up, in any play, by its ending. And as Jamie said, there’s a massive tonal shift for Act 5. So what the audience hopefully are left with is a sense of being slightly unsettled, and not having laughed so much, and not thinking this is just a comedy. So it’s set up as a comedy, but arguably isn’t.

Felix Crabtree (Iphicles): And lots of the humour that is in the play isn’t necessarily in the text. My character Iphicles is presented from the beginning as the stupid shepherd: he gets dragged down [to join other shepherds kneeling before Nature], and runs off the wrong way… so there’s lots of physical humour. Especially the shepherds held so close together all the time: that’s not in the text, though can you infer it from the text. It’s not plainly there written. And so our process and kneeling together and sighing at the same time: this was based on a postcard of a statue, in which [figures] were all interwoven, and that’s what we wanted to base ourselves on.

Was it a natural leap—from Elizabethan to 1967?

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Tom Lewis (Sol): It’s a very fun challenge, because they’re so different! Early modern drama and then, well… 1960s! It’s been great to explore the differences and compare the two, but also make it relatable to modern day. Because it ties in three different eras.

Yiannis Vogiaridis (Mars): One of the first things we were doing is listening to the music… One of the songs in the play is Walk on Gilded Splinters [by Dr John], which is a very strange piece of music—but it allowed us to get into the mindsets of the ’60s, and we were able to tie that music into the play. And I think that Lyly, the way he wrote the play, you could do it any period—it’s just about what music you add to the piece, and how you adapt it with what the planets are wearing, and props.

 And about that music—this is an integral part of all your productions. Is it a fundamental starting point alongside the characters and performances?

Yiannis: Yes—when we worked with Olly [Harvey-Ball] and Toby [Ollis-Brownstone], the band, they came up with ideas for music… So one of the scenes in the play was in the forest, with a change of scenery going into the grove, so we were trying to find the correct piece of music for that scene. And Olly and Toby had researched different ’60s music, and we decided to go with what they came up with, and when we listened to it we realised it worked perfectly. [. . .]

In response to a question about the production’s music from Martin Higgins, PhD researcher at the Shakespeare Institute, during the after-show Q&A led by Andy Kesson on Sunday 11 March:

Olly Harvey-Ball (band, musical direction): The music wasn’t [all] original—the covers, of which there were many—were a discussion (partly Perry’s ideas)… They came out of an original list that was about 30 songs long, and [. . .] we’d wind it down as we worked with the play. It’s all about mood and tone of the music. It has to highlight what’s going on onstage, and what Pandora’s feeling and acting at that point. So the covers came down to what fits: we had the sexy “All Day and All of the Night” [The Kinks] between Pandora and Gunophilus, and this hippy “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” which I don’t think you could have found a better song for Gods to just rise! The original music—

Perry Mills: Olly wrote the original stuff! [applause!]

Olly: [. . .] It’s difficult writing when you’ve just got lyrics with three different voices in. How on earth do you separate them, how do you ensure there are different tones? [. . .]

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The song lyrics from the quarto (1597) (C4r; F2v)

Perry Mills (Director): It was really interesting with the later song [“Stesias hath a white hand…”], which we called the “mad song,” when Joe [as Pandora] went up onto the table, because it is mad—right at the start, I noticed that there were 3 different rhyme schemes across the song. So I said to Olly, right: that reflects the madness and the fickleness, and we needed three different songs. So, again, he came up straight away with a really terrific idea (though we did change the third a little): the first song is Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, as far as I’m concerned; the second is our version of “I Am the Walrus” with the weirdest backing vocals in the world!; and the third song, at first it was played too fast, and I thought it was too ’70s—and we’re 1967 in this play of course!—so we decided it was the Leonard Cohen moment. So that’s why Joe [Pocknell, Pandora] went deep… But in terms of mood and “what the hell is going on!” it seemed to work…

 Lastly, how on earth [or in space] do you cope with taking your productions to such radically different venues with so little time to get used to them?

Jack Hawkins (Gunophilus): With Summer’s Last Will [. . .] we spent a lot of the day before in the Sam Wanamaker and most of the day of the performance just working out where we’re going to put things. We just club together and do it, don’t we?

Joe Pocknell (Pandora): We have a concept called, “The Woman in the Moon in ten minutes,” which is just: sprint through the play. Do all your entrances and exits, go round—bam bam bam—find any problems, any areas where we’re going to need to sort something out. This was especially important in Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford (LMH), in the Simpkins Lee Theatre, where one entrance you can only get to it one way.

Jack: In the Levi [Fox Hall, King Edward VI School], where we’re performing tonight, you can go round anywhere and you can really get to anywhere—it gives you freedom. But it’s much more restricted in the LMH, so you had to be much more disciplined with where you were, and we still get on with it. We know that you arrive at say 3 [. . .] and you have however long to work it out, locate any problems, and just get on with it.

Adam Hardy (Jupiter): You mention Oxford: sometimes the space gives us new things that we hadn’t thought about [. . .] We had to spin across sometimes, as there was a weird entrance where you had to go across the stage to get to it. If you had to be on that side, then you’d have to cross the stage. If you’re a planet, you can make something of that—you can be spinning on, and showing that you are still there in the background. And we’re doing a church in Montpellier, so that’ll be interesting—doing this pagan play in a church…

Pascal Vogiaridis (Melos): That’s one of the big things I really enjoy. I’m someone who likes a challenge, and adapting to different situations. With this play, we’ve rehearsed it always in the Levi Fox Hall—here—so a largeish hall, not too cacophonous, and homely. And we went to the Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford, it’s got three sides—thrust—set up, and as it’s more of a professional space, we had to think about getting round places and thinking about what we’re doing. And then on Friday [Woman in the Moon at St-Mary-at-Hill church, London] very echoey, so we had to properly focus. And then going to France! So having to take everything with us, doing different spaces over there. I think it’s fun and exciting and we all relish the challenge!

The Woman in the Moon returns to Warwick on the 28th March before heading on tour to France…


Callan Davies

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2 thoughts on “The Woman in the Moon: In Conversation with Edward’s Boys

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

  2. Pingback: Pass Ye Remote: A Quest for Early Modern Entertainment Through Online Learning Resources | Before Shakespeare

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