Your work is the most sustained attempt to re-imagine what we think boy companies could do – and it will really rewrite the academic theatre history books.
Edward’s Boys never fail to delight with their always lively and committed performances of plays by Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Avoiding theatrical archaeology, they nevertheless offer deeply suggestive insights into the practices of the all-boys’ companies that performed both comedies and tragedies – too often neglected by our professional theatre – by writers such as John Lyly, Thomas Middleton and John Marston.
Edward’s Boys are a firm fixture on the map of the English theatrical scene—and they have also changed the map of how we think about early modern theatre (not just boys’ company plays). The boys – of all ages – are simultaneously innocent and knowing in performance, keeping city comedy teetering on the brink of send-up and making revenge tragedy able to confront its own excess.
More than any other theatre company, including the best of the professionals, Edward’s Boys are in the vanguard of exploring the theatrical style of Thomas Middleton and other contemporaries of Shakespeare… They are clearly leading the way in the exploration of early modern plays using an all-boys cast. Those of us privileged to see these productions are learning about a key aspect of the production of plays in Shakespeare’s period. We are also seeing excellent productions of plays that are insufficiently performed, and, above all, enjoying some memorable evenings in the theatre.
Edward’s Boys are a revelation. Anyone who is interested in early modern plays in performance ought to see them. In terms of physicality, proxemics and embodiment, they open up new theatrical horizons for even the most experienced twenty first century theatre goer; they challenge complacency about theatrical norms; they are also extremely entertaining.
Edward’s Boys show us what boys’ companies can do — which is to say, anything. Their productions are not excellent ‘for children’ or ‘for amateurs’ – they are excellent by any standards. They draw energy from two vital sources: first, painstaking attention to the text, which enables each actor to understand his lines and communicate clearly with the audience; second, the ensemble ethos of the boys and their director, Perry Mills. Mills has created a culture in which the boys teach and learn from each other, releasing the exuberant will to perform in each one to great creative effect. Edward’s Boys audiences learn something about boys’ companies and early modern drama, but they also relish pure theatrical gold.
Edward’s Boys’ revivals of plays by the likes of Lyly, Middleton and Marston have informed and transformed my thinking about early modern drama and children’s company plays in particular. No modern revivals can give us concrete answers to our questions about the plays or their performance style, but over the last few years Perry MIlls’ lucid and imaginative productions have asked the very best kinds of questions.
“They bear the mark of a great early modern acting company: not only can they enliven seemingly impenetrable prose, maximise the multi-media possibilities of performance, take liberties with text and create fluidity and dynamism in clowning and comedy, but they can take and adapt those qualities as occasion, space and audience require.”
I can honestly say that I had never imagined I would ever see a production that came so near to recapturing what it must have been like to see the plays as they were intended to be performed, or that would shed so much light on how much could be expected of juvenile performers.
Edward’s Boys must be the bravest company in the world of early modern theatre. They fearlessly take on dramatists who have been ignored by other theatre companies, demonstrating how much early modern creativity and excitement we all overlook. Their work is a peculiar fusion of scholarly breakthrough and theatrical joy: miss them if you dare!