Fifty years after it was first performed on the Northcott’s stage, Robert Lindsay has recorded a speech from The Roses of Eyam, which he says feels more poignant now than ever:
“It’s an extraordinary story of isolation and survival thanks to the bravery of the community.”
The Roses of Eyam is a historical drama by Don Taylor about The Great Plague that swept Britain in 1665/66. In the play, families shut themselves away in their homes fearing that contact with others will invite the infection. Many die but the villagers’ self-isolation finally proves successful; they adapt and continue until no other cases of plague are found in the country.
In Lindsay’s recording the speech ends with a rallying call to come together to defeat the infection:
From today until the plague is over this village must be enclosed.
We will draw a boundary line of stones around us and until we are sure that the plague has finished its work here, that line must never be crossed.
I can see the fear in your faces. There is fear in my heart too. We are all liars if we don’t confess it.
But with your help, we can win.
We can give our enemy the bare minimum of sacrifice he demands.
The time is now.
And the answer is in your hands.
Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director & Chief Executive:
“Sometimes we must look to the past in order to consider our future. This year marks the 50th anniversary of this play’s first performance and yet it feels startlingly relevant now. As with every theatre grappling with the current crisis, we are adapting our plans, supporting and being supported by our local community. I very much hope that we’ll be able to embark on a community production of The Roses of Eyam in the coming year. These are dark days but we are determined that the theatre will return stronger to give voice to those in our community and brighten up our lives.”
We recently unveiled plans to undertake a two-year project to engage the community in our archive and received £143,000 in National Lottery funding to allow Devon communities to delve into the archive’s rich history, its stories and voices, and to build upon it by generating new memories. With this new reading of The Roses of Eyam, we hope to show you a little bit more about the theatre’s history and we’d also like to invite you to consider the role and relevance of theatre now.