Rally for the Rose – Introduced by Sir Ian McKellen & Dame Judi Dench
A rehearsed play reading about the discovery of The Rose Playhouse and the fight to save it.
Based on verbatim accounts and historical documents.
Introduced by Sir Ian McKellen & Dame Judi Dench
21 November at 7.30pm.
This live-streamed performance will be free to view; donations to The Rose Playhouse welcome.
Link will be available at www.roseplayhouse.org.uk from 21 Nov onwards.
Cast includes Dame Janet Suzman, Michael Pennington, Jeff Rawle, Sir Simon Hughes and members of the Rose community who were interviewed for the project. Written & directed by Ben Prusiner.
In 1989 archaeologists on a construction site in London discovered the remains of The Rose Playhouse, an Elizabethan theatre that was home to William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and many others. The site was in immediate danger of being destroyed to make room for a new office block. Theatrical luminaries Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Judi Dench and many more defied the bulldozers and demonstrated alongside citizens of Bankside and beyond to preserve the site. Rally for the Rose is a new play based on interviews from people who were at those protests in 1989, historical records from the Rose’s archives, and documents from the governments of both Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth I.
The evening will be introduced by video testimonials from Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench retelling their experiences of the battle to save The Rose. The live-streamed performance follows, led by Dame Janet Suzman (as Queen Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher) and Michael Pennington (as an historical puritan and an archetypal famous actor from the demonstrations). Both played key roles in the 1989 demonstrations.
Lily Nichol (RSC’s Imperium) will read Joan Alleyn, the strong, timeless narrator who takes viewers on a journey starting from her own experience of The Rose Playhouse in the late 1500s. We meet many Elizabethan theatre makers along the way: Joan’s husband the actor Edward Alleyn (read by Jonathan Livingstone, who also played Alleyn in After Edward at Shakespeare’s Globe), her step-father the theatrical entrepreneur Philip Henslowe (Jeff Rawle of The Durrells, Hollyoaks and Drop the Dead Donkey), playwrights Christopher Marlowe (Shane David-Joseph of Bristol Old Vic’s A Christmas Carol) and William Shakespeare, among others.
Audiences will also hear verbatim testimony from archaeologists, actors and demonstrators from 1989, including The Rose’s archaeological scientist Jane Sidell and longtime volunteer Christina Skaife. Former MP for Southwark Sir Simon Hughes will be reading words he spoke in 1989 at the demonstration and in the House of Commons. These verbatim sections are the result of a nearly two year-long interview and research process by writer/director Ben Prusiner and co-producer Fiona Munro.
Sir Patrick Stewart, who also helped save The Rose in ’89, has registered his support for the reading.
“Plagues have closed down our theatres before and they have always found a way to survive. The fight for The Rose is a reminder that theatre is for everyone and that it takes all of us to save it,” said director Ben Prusiner. “This production not only celebrates the history of The Rose Playhouse and the community that came together around it,but will help us to raise much-needed funds. The Rose Revealed project will at last finish the excavation after three decades, properly preserve the site and exhibit it for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.”