The Earthly Paradise (2011)

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Designed by Tom Hancock

by Peter Whelan

Directed by Megan Collins & Tom Hancock

Performances: Tue 18th – Sat 22nd October 2011, Prompt Corner


Message from the Playwright

Kelmscott Manor still stands in the Oxfordshire village of Kelmscott in surroundings very little altered since 1871, when Morris and Rossetti first rented it. The play is based on the events of that shared tenancy and the tensions raised by Morris leaving his wife, Janey, there to model for Rossetti. Kelmscott marked a turning point in each of their lives...and, while I've tried to be reasonably true to history, my main concern has been to capture the powerful inner forces associated with those changes. Sometimes I've bent the facts somewhat...sometimes I've used rumour.I've compressed the three year timescale by half; and where I had no detail about a particular manservant of Rossetti's, I have invented him outright. For Morris himself, Kelmscott helped shape the utopian craftsman-designer aspect of his vision. Morris the overt political animal didn't emerge fully until more than a decade later. At this time we simply catch the beginnings of is questionings and the revelation of a classless society experienced on his trip to Iceland.

Message from the Directors

The Earthly Paradise is a funny and moving exploration of the complex relationship that existed behind the public faces of these three famous figures of the Pre-Raphaelite Movement. Janey, originally a working-class girl from the backstreets of Oxford, was picked out of a crowd by Rossetti and became arguably his most famous model. Rosseti, who was engaged to Lizzie Siddall at the time, persuaded his good friend Morris, who himself had fallen for Janey's beauty and strength of character, to marry her to keep her in their circle. But the bond between Janey and Rossetti was always there and after Lizzie's untimely death, grew stronger than ever. Morris, losing confidence in his own artistic abilities and at the mercy of his own progressive belief that marriage should not equal ownership, creates the opportunity for Janey and Rossetti to finally be together at Kelmscott whist he embarks on an expedition to Iceland. He hopes that they will find personal happiness and create extraordinary works of art to make his sacrifice worthwhile but Rossetti is battling his own demons and Janey finds that being put on a pedestal is not all it is cracked up to be... Much more than just a period piece, The Earthly Paradise is a play about love and loss, about striving to live by ideals and the human cost, about the bond of friendship, eggs and wallpaper! We hope you enjoy it.


Creative Team

With thanks to:

Front of House, Box Office and Bar Staff for helping it all run smoothly. Lucy Letkovic, Jane & Harry Hancock and Jenny Bryant for babysitting. Jeanette Hoile, Dave Hollander, Jack King & Brian Fretwell, David Workman and the SLT Youth Group. Ricky at South London Decorators Merchants for the wallpaper. Julie Cruttenden at Greasepaint for Janey's wig. Ffrangcon & Peter Whelan for their involvement, advice and sewing. Matt Collins, Anna and Zoe Callender, Lindsey Scott and Vlastik Spelda for their patience, support and taxiing. Emma Kerby-Evans & Beckenham Theatre for lending us costumes. Questors for costumes and bags. Paul Jackson for the loan of the projector. The cast and crew of The Merchant of Venice and Our Boys.


Some review quotes go here


Edited by Tom Hancock
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Photos by Mark Davies

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See Also

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