JANET AND JANE

“My sisters and me are searching for our fortune. We seek a great metropolis full of opportunity. What is this place?”

“Suffolk.”

CLASSIC ADAPTATION, FAMILY AUDIENCE, FULL-LENGTH PLAY, SUITABLE FOR A LARGE CAST, SUITABLE FOR YOUTH COMPANIES | 20+ characters

Want to perform or produce JANET AND JANE?

first performed by Ben Ambrose, Heather Bandenburg, Emily Barber, Jessica Breeze, Alice Bushell, Kieran East, Sam Eaton, Rebecca Fuller, Juliet Gordon, Polly Ingham, Callum Lillistone, Jamie Mann, Meghali Pandey, Martha Patterson, Letitia Ringshaw, Emily Slack, Louise Smith, Charlotte Surman, Greg Webster and Liz White

directed by Sue Rosser and Michelle Currie
set and lighting by Mark Passey, John Bramley and Theatre Royal Technical Crew
music composed by Anna Pilsworth
choreography by Yael Loewenstein

produced by the Theatre Royal Youth Theatre at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds

IN A SENSE YOU ARE ALL QUEENS

PROGRAMME NOTE FROM ORIGINAL PRODUCTION

so have we endeavoured with all care that what we present Your Highness should neither offend in scene nor syllable … in Your Majesty’s mind, where nothing doth harbour but virtue, nothing can enter but virtue

FROM THE PROLOGUE TO JOHN LYLY’S 1588 PLAY GALATEA

On New Year’s Day 1588 Queen Elizabeth and her court sat down to watch a play specially written, like this one, for a group of teenagers to perform. That wasn’t un­usual: the children’s companies were part of that extraordinary surge in London thea­tre during which Shakespeare and his contemporaries were writing.

I’ve been interested for some time to discover what might happen if a group of young people today were to engage with a play written for those sixteenth century children. Of course, the Theatre Royal Youth Theatre is very different from the Children of Saint Paul’s who performed John Lyly’s play Galatea in 1588 (the play whose story Janet and Jane shamelessly borrows). That first company were all boys, where ours is mixed. In fact, Galatea is notable as a play with a number of important female roles – one of the reasons I chose it to explore with this group. The youth theatre work hard, but conditions aren’t as rough as they were for their predecessors. They haven’t been kidnapped from their parents by force, ‘huddled up in lodgings [and] pushed to what must often have been the limits of physical endurance’ as one account describes the sixteenth century child actors.

A successful play at court needed to flatter as well as entertain the company’s patrons, particularly the queen. I’ve always been intrigued that a play in which two boy actors dressed as girl characters disguised as boys fall in love in a forest was the kind of thing imagined to win the favour of a sixteenth century head of state. It also had a great theatrical influence – you can see how this tale of transvestite heroines in the woods influenced Shakespeare’s As You Like It among others.

I shared my interest in the story, characters and style of Galatea with the Youth Thea­tre company here and have written Janet and Jane in the light of the connections and resonances they found. Just as John Lyly’s play moved between a classical Mediterra­nean setting and a recognisable contemporary England, so Janet and Jane is set in a hybrid world – one parallel to our own and reflecting it back in various ways.

In a sense you are all queens for this performance. The actors and others creating this production no longer look to just one person for approval. We hope you enjoy your­selves.