The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre.
March 31 – April 1, 2 & 3, 2004.
by Nick Young
Bob Ryder – Francis Bacon
David Peaty – Ben Jonson [Playwright]
Judith Berrill – Elizabeth [Queen of England]
John Garland – Earl of Leicester [favourite of the Queen]
Kate Brownings – Amy Robsart [his wife]
Diane Robinson – Anne Bacon [lady-in-waiting]
Rols Ham-Riche – Sir Robert Asham [Elizabeth’s former tutor]
Tony Brownings – Robert Cecil [Minister to Elizabeth & James]
Kate Brownings – Lady Scales [lady-in-waiting]
Claire Wiggins – Marguerite de Valois [Queen of France]
David Peaty – James Burbage [an actor-manager]
Chris Brownings – Richard Burbage [his son 9yr]
Mark Best – Richard Burbage [his son as a man]
Ross Muir – Earl of Southampton
Rols Ham-Riche – Will Shagspere [an ostler]
Sheelagh Baker – Lady Nottingham [lady-in-waiting]
Simon Druce – A Priest
David Creedon – James 1 [King of England & Scotland]
Judith Berrill – Duke of Buckingham [The King’s favourite ‘Steenie’]
Jan King – Lady Compton [his mother]
Simon Druce – Sir John Villiers [her eldest, impoverished son]
John Garland – Sir Edward Coke [a powerful lawyer]
Sheelagh Baker – Lady Hatton [his wife]
Kate Brownings – Frances Hatton [their daughter]
Simon Druce – Churchill [a legal minion]
Kate Brownings – Alice Bacon [wife of Francis]
Ross Muir – Sir Lionel Cranfield [time-serving politician]
Simon Druce – Sir James Ley [a judge]
Director’s Assistant – Betty Dawes
Lighting – Mike Medway
Lighting Technician – Ben Lentz
Sound – Simon Snelling
Visual Imaging – Malcolm Buchanan-Dick
Technical Stage Manager – David Bickers
Properties – Sue Whittaker
Properties – Margaret Davy
Wardrobe – Cherry Briggs
Wardrobe – Sandra Peaty
Wardrobe – Sheila Neesham
Set & Technical Crew – David Collis
Set & Technical Crew – David Comber
Set & Technical Crew – Mike Davy
Set & Technical Crew – Robert Mitchell
Set & Technical Crew – Brian Box
Set & Technical Crew – Marc Lewis
Set Painting – Sheila Neesham
Press and Publicity – Rosemary Bouchy
Press and Publicity – Rosemary Brown
Press and Publicity – Judith Berrill
Box Office – Margaret Murrell
Front of House Co-ordinator – Betty Dawes
Publicity #1: Ciphers
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: March 31 2004 issue – page 22
Text Header: A taste of Bacon
Correspondent: Bella Todd
WELCOME to a world in which the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I, had two children. The Earl of Essex is not ‘her toy boy, as Bette Davis would have it’ but Elizabeth’s son; the other is that great Renaissance man, Sir Francis Bacon.
This is a world in which Bacon is rightful heir to the throne and “at least 50 per cent homosexual” but signals his renunciation of the succession by becoming engaged to an 11-year-old girl. A world in which Bacon is the real Bard, who uses a jumped-up ostler named William Shakespeare as the front for his plays, before faking his own death using a sleeping drug he had already written of in Romeo And Juliet.
This world premier of the Wick Theatre Company’s latest production is set to turn Tudor and Jacobean history on its head. But, says writer and director Nick Young, it ain’t fiction.
“This is a story I’ve put together out of whole lot of known incidents”, says Young, the founder of Rainbow Shakespeare and the man who famously directed Twelfth Night on Worthing Beach. “When I was young I was shown the Bacon ciphers and was absolutely knocked out by them. I thought, ‘There’s an amazing story here,’ and, sure enough, during the course of my detective work I came across the most extraordinary royal scandal ever.”
Ciphers are codes, heavily used by Elizabethan writers to leave hidden messages in their works. Bacon invented his own and is said to have used them to sign works published outwardly under a different name. Indeed, many academies have treated Shakespeare’s plays as a grand word search, busying themselves with highlighters, calculators, and Latin dictionaries until Bacon’s signature began to emerge from these lines.
This historical mystery play is rooted in the belief that what they have revealed is not coincidence but the greatest secret of all time.
“When you see the ciphers on front of you, you’re left in no doubt that Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays,” Nick states. “At the Inns of Court, Bacon was actually known as The Spear Shaker and The Hidden Poet. He could dictate to six secretaries at the same time and once, when he was ill in bed, he reeled off 300 of the world’s best jokes. People think he was just a rather boring philosopher who fell into disgrace because he was corrupt but this play tells the story of an incredible thinker brought down by his enemies.”
It is hard to conceive that anybody would attempt to conceal their authorship of such a body of work. But being a playwright, Young points out, was an incredibly dangerous occupation. “Even at the universities, secret police were employed by the church and government to censor every essay.” He says. “And then there’s the fear that the cult of personality will overrule the plays themselves. I have Bacon say, ‘If they knew it was me, everyone would want to know the name of my Juliet’. And of course, Bacon was actually having a love affair with Southampton.”
Confused? In the flickering candle light of the Barn Theatre all will be made clear.
The plot, Nick acknowledges, may be as twisted as EastEnders, but then Ciphers tells of political and sexual intrigue so astounding the ‘you really couldn’t make it up’.
Review #1: Ciphers
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: April 8
Reviewer: Jamie hailstone
Text Header: A lesson in history
The red carpet was rolled out in Southwick last week for the world premiere of Nick Young’s new play Ciphers.
Performed by Wick Theatre Company at the Barn Theatre, Southwick, Ciphers told the story of one of the more enigmatic characters in English history, Sir Francis Bacon. Both written and directed by Nick, it was also a crash course in Elizabethan life, with appearances from Elizabeth I, Ben Jonson and James I.
Without wishing to state the painfully obvious, the hardest job on the night fell to Bob Ryder, who played Bacon himself. Bob made the most of the meaty part and his performance was nothing short of staggering, as he took us through the highs and lows of Bacon’s life.[here the reviewer listed the cast]
The production was highly ambitious, and although a little bit on the long side, a brave attempt at bringing our nations’ history to life.
Review #2: Ciphers
Publication: Brighton Argus
Publication Data: Unknown
Reviewer: Barrie Jerram
Text Header: Unknown
Let’s not beat about the bush … this production was outstanding in both the acting and in the direction!
Ciphers is an extraordinary history lesson but a highly entertaining one. Writer, Nick Young, has researched the life of Sir Francis Bacon, statesman, writer and scientist and whose life spanned the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. He has come up with a fascinating insight into the man and his times. In telling the story the audience is asked to accept two suppositions. Firstly, that Bacon was the child of the Virgin Queen and, secondly, that he did in fact write the plays attributed to Shakespeare. Poor old Will is used as a bit of comic relief and is shown to be an illiterate, drunken buffoon ready to sell his name.
The play is full of political intrigue as Bacon’s enemies, namely Robert Cecil and Sir Edward Coke, plot his downfall and manoeuvre themselves into power. In these rôles Tony Brownings and John Garland managed to add a comic touch to their sinister portrayals particularly the scene where they are playing a game of racquets. They brought to mind a scene from a pantomime involving the broker’s men.
The Wick Theatre Company in premiering this play were fortunate enough to have Nick Young as director. His firm hand ensured that the action moved along at a good pace and he was able to extract so many fine performances from the large cast. Bob Ryder made Bacon a man of great dignity whilst Judith Berrill’s Elizabeth was a feisty and sensuous creation. As James I David Creedon captured well the lascivious side of the King. The audience were fully appreciative of Ross Muir’s highly camp Earl of Southampton – perhaps a little too outré for Elizabethan times.
The use of projected slides was a clever device that helped to identify the time and location of each scene. This together with the simple but effective set made the many scene changes possible. However, there appeared to be a few problems with the lighting cues that hopefully were resolved for later performances. Enjoyable as the play was, it was far too long and could have benefited from some pruning and tightening up. For example the scene in the second act involving Shakespeare bragging in a Stratford pub did nothing to enhance the plot and could so easily have been left out.
Congratulations to all involved in the creation and realisation of this original work.
Review #3: Ciphers
Publication: Words & Music
Publication Data: No.110 May/June 2004 – page 9
Reviewer: Gordon Bull
“What a fantastic play!” Thus was my comment to the publicity officer when seeking my interval drink. The first act contained every element of a fascinating story and at its mid-curtain, with imperious Queen Elizabeth beautifully adorned holding the stage a complete play in itself.
Costumes superb, lighting flawless, word-perfect acting without exception, brilliant interplay, all contributed to this spell-binding and kaleidoscopic bio-pic on the convoluted lives of Good Queen Bess and Francis Bacon. One hour of pure enjoyment with another act to follow! Here endeth the first lesson and my Magnificat. The sheer effort of having to cope with the complications of twenty-eight characters, the multiple scene-changes and the Shakespeare-like soliloquies accorded to Bacon and Ben Jonson which contributed to the ensuing hour and half’s intricacies, was exhausting and left me gasping as to at what point this whole affair was to be concluded.
The play was undoubtedly engaging, written as it was by an authoritative playwright whose thesis was clearly linked with the content. I certainly learned a lot, even if a substantial part was based on contemporary writings and hearsay. Bob Ryder as Sir Francis and Judith Berrill as Queen Elizabeth gave strong performances and led a quality cast too numerous to mention.
There was material enough here for two plays. One on the dispute as to the Shakespeare v Bacon controversy and another on the Elizabeth / Essex / Leicester shenanigans. To convolute the two was too much. I could not revisit this a second time and was very relieved to get to the final curtain, albeit I am glad I experienced it the once.
An abundance of words and incidental scenes as such would serve to pad out if two historical plays were written on the subjects. Further, the inclusion of modern expletives mixed in with 16th century colloquy destroyed too sharply the atmosphere created, and the absence of [or unsatisfactory attempt at] any ageing process both to the Queen and then to Bacon over their life-span was unforgivable. A whitening of face here and a greying beard there would not have gone amiss and redeemed one’s belief. It was further quite superfluous, although interesting, to include the love-scene between Francis and the Queen of France, like an apple in a pond. Scenically did we need the ball-playing James I, described as the wisest fool in Christendom, to forge a link with the Queen’s supposed bastard’s disinterest in his throne?
The production team was excellent in every way and together with the whole cast and author/director Nick Young, has to be congratulated in bringing off a demanding play-wright’s dream. Maybe we have a budding Bacon or putative Bard in the wings, for Ciphers bore some recognisable traits of the master’s pen, style and long-learning. I suspect my review matches the one problem with this otherwise excellent play. Too many words!
Comment #1: Ciphers
Publication: Shoreham Herald
Publication Data: April 8 2004
Author: Adur District Council Chairman, Liza McKinney
Heading: Literally Liza
I WAS honoured to be invited to the first night and the first performance of Ciphers, a new play written and directed by Nic Young, much of whose professional life has been spent directing Shakespeare’s plays. All the more interesting, therefore, that Mr. Young should choose as his storyline the oft made claim that Will’s plays were really written by Sir Francis Bacon.
It was a fascinating evening and I would certainly join Mr. Young’s tribute to the enthusiasm and creativity of the Wick Theatre Company. Southwick is, indeed, very fortunate in having such a wealth of theatrical talent.
The play required most of the cast to learn immense scripts and the pace was fast-moving.
There was a lot to take in and I felt that future directors will be tempted to do some editing. However, it was a highly entertaining evening and the acting was excellent.
I was particularly impressed by Bob Ryder’s Francis Bacon, Judith Berrill’s Queen Elizabeth I and Will Shakespeare played, with a Brummy accent, by Rols Ham-Riche.
Southwick today, London tomorrow – I wish Nic Young all the best, both as a playwright and director.