Historical drama comes to Peterborough theatre

An Honest Gentleman
An Honest Gentleman

Historical drama has never been more popular, with people flocking to cinemas to see Oscar-winning films like ‘The Favourite’ and theatre-goers paying top prices to see the hip-hop musical ‘Hamilton’.

But getting your fix of dastardly villains, sumptuous costumes and dangerous liaisons doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. This Spring, Peterborough’s Vivacity Key Theatre have devised a terrific deal allowing punters to see a selection of drama performances at an affordable price.

“We are keen to get audiences along to the Key Theatre to experience the great range of drama on offer,” explains Jag Singh, General Manager . “That’s why we have introduced our special ‘3 dramas for £30’ deal”.

One show being offered as part of this special deal is ‘An Honest Gentleman’ presented by Norfolk- based Stuff of Dreams Theatre Company, which takes to the Key stage on May 21.

This lively new musical play tells the story of Aylsham-born highwayman Thomas Easter.

Little is known of Thomas Easter except that he was born in Norfolk in 1715 and was hung at Tyburn 24 years later. From North Norfolk to Putney Heath he plied his trade as a Gentleman of the Road, ‘raising contributions upon the public’. Ultimately betrayed by an accomplice, Easter was eventually sentenced to death and ‘danced the hangman’s jig’.

“I have always wanted to write a play about a highwayman, I have had a fascination with them since I was a teenager”, explains writer and director Cordelia Spence.

“The best thing about Easter, from a dramatist’s point of view”, says Spence, “is that not too much is known about him. He was the son of an Aylsham butcher and we know he had to leave the town because he got in trouble”.

Stuff of Dreams used the original transcript of Easter’s trial which was found in the Old Bailey records as a resource. But it was Tim Lane, the show’s co-writer and composer, who came up with the idea of giving Thomas Easter’s character a fatal flaw, and he chose gambling.

“Certain things have been invented and surmised. Dick Turpin is well known for his vicious activities across Essex - we have no evidence that he and Easter ever actually met, but we wanted a villain and Turpin fit the bill!”

With a fast-paced script and cast of three actors (Quinn Richards, Hayley Evenett and Geir Madland) ably supported by original folk songs performed live by musician Tim Lane,

‘An Honest Gentleman’ is just one a series of productions programmed by Vivacity Key Theatre as part of their ‘3 dramas for a £30’ deal. Other shows include ‘Bess – the Commoner Queen’ and ‘The Trials of Oscar Wilde’.

“An Honest Gentleman is the third play that Tim Lane and I have written together,” says Cordelia, “and it has been an absolute joy. The story and songs literally tumbled onto the page. And with the support of Arts Council funding, we are really pleased to be able to tour the show to 12 venues across the East of England.”