The Shoemaker's Holiday

Article excerpt

The Shoemaker's Holiday

Presented by the Rose Theatre Company and THEatre KIT at the Rose Theatre, Bankside, London. 30 Oct-1 November, 13-15 November 2008. Directed by David Pearce and Pepe Pryke. Costumes by Warren Rusher.

Photos by Peter Kollar. With Gareth Bennett-Ryan (Firk), Robert Carretta (Simon Eyre), Kitty Chapman (Sybil), Greg Cheverall (Lincoln), Nicholas Kempsey (Hodge), Mike Evans (Hammon, Askew), Lucy Grainger (Margery), Ellie Hale (Jane), Suzanne Marie (Rose), Patrick Ross (Lacy/Hans), Warren Rusher (King of England, Lovell, Dodger, Warner, Servant), Andrew Southern (Sir Roger Oatley), James Tweedy (Rafe).

Four hundred and nine years after its premier in 1599, Thomas Dekker's Shoemaker's Holiday received its first postmodern revival at the recently opened Rose Theatre in Southwark on the site of the remains of the Elizabethan playhouse of the same name, just a short distance away from Shakespeare's reconstructed Globe on Park Street. It was a rare opportunity to see Dekker in performance, and the strategy of re-performing Dekker in the Rose space was clearly the Rose Theatre Trust's determination to keep attention on its historical site in order to attract funding for further excavation and restoration. Spectators had the opportunity to stand in the undercroft of a commercial building on Park Street, on a viewing platform pitched across the actual remains of Philip Henslowe's Rose, to watch Dekker's play of London life. As we approached the Rose on foot from New Globe Walk, we first saw a faux-Elizabethan playbill pasted to the wall outside the Rose entrance. Entering the site, we then heard contemporary pop songs that gradually modulated into Elizabethan music. Walking into the viewing platform that also served the performance as a bare stage, we saw the outlines of the Rose foundation marked out in red rope lights. The Trust's strategic setup--a theatrical prologue to this modern-dress production--prepared the audience (mostly scholars, students, and patrons of the Trust) for a mood change, attempting to register a sense of historicity in this performative space, as if commemorating symbiotic afterlives of Dekker and the Rose.

The Shoemaker's Holiday didn't begin with festive merrymaking as the playbill promised: it recounted two love stories--Lacy-Rose and RareJane--located in Simon Eyre's shoe shop, which served as the backdrop in a civic London that valued plebeian virtues over blood. Rather, this production opened its first scene with a class confrontation between the Earl of Lincoln and Sir Roger Oatley, Lord Mayor of London, who disagreed on an unequal romance between Lacy (Lincoln's nephew) and Rose (Oatley's daughter). Lincoln's well-controlled RP and lush, black velvet cape and hat challenged Oatley's citizen status, accent, and Lord Mayor's outfit; in return, Oatley's sartorial register spurned upper-class snobbery. To disrupt this potential match with mutual "scorn," Lincoln and Oatley enacted a strategic maneuver. Oatley shut Rose up at home, and her imprisonment was figured behind the metal fence that cordons off the historic Rose remains from public access.

To protect Lacy from marrying the "churl's" daughter, Lincoln contrived to have Lacy appointed by the King to fight in France. Yet Lacy isn't an obedient child: he disguises himself as a Dutch shoemaker called Hans and seeks work at Eyre's shop in working-class London. In David Pearce's production Lacy was neither a truant nor a "lovelorn nob" as Benedict Nightingale observed in a review of John Dexter's 1981 National Theatre's production (theatre review in New Statesman, 26 June 1981), but an intelligent, comic entertainer who not only dared to "venture his life upon the indignation of the King" but also skillfully put on a sustained, convincing disguise, singing and mingling with a group of noisy shoemakers to pursue what his heart set upon. Onstage aristocratic Lacy abandoned all his "silks and gay apparel," dressing down in a multi-colored work suit in order to flake class, trade, accent, and nationality. …