Derby playwright set to tour new theatre production nationally

23 July 2018

A playwright from Derby is set to take his latest theatre production on a tour of the UK.

Award-winning playwright Kevin Fegan will tour Bess The Commoner Queen in spring 2019 to 15 venues, including in London and Manchester.

Kevin received support from In Good Company - the flagship professional creative and business development programme for theatre makers and companies in the East Midlands - to advise on potential contracts, including commercial contracts with a West End Theatre company and other West End London venues. His production will also appear at The Lowry in Salford and Theatre Royal in Wakefield, amongst others.

Bess the Commoner Queen is a one-woman show which first premiered to sell-out audiences in 2017 at The Guildhall Theatre Derby, funded by First Art in association with Derby Live.

The play offers an insight into the political intrigues of Elizabethan England, as witnessed first-hand by Bess of Hardwick. Born a farmer’s daughter, Bess ‘the commoner queen’ rose to become the richest woman in Elizabethan England.

The production is a mix of theatre and film - shot on location at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire. It is directed by Rikki Tarascas and performed by Michelle Todd, with projection design by Will Simpson.

Kevin Fegan’s career as a successful playwright and poet has spanned over 30 years. He said: “When actress Michelle Todd handed me a short biography of one of Derbyshire’s most famous women, I knew Bess of Hardwick’s story would make a powerful drama. It’s a female story of survival and astonishing business success in the brutal world of Elizabethan politics.

“It’s an ambitious move to attempt a national tour and I couldn’t have done it without the support I received from a business coach provided to me through the In Good Company programme.”

Sarah Brigham, artistic director and chief executive of Derby Theatre, said: “Bess the Commoner Queen is the result of Kevin’s hard work and a testament to his writing credentials. We are delighted to be working with him to develop this exciting national tour.”

In Good Company and Derby Theatre are part of The Big House, a £5 million tailored support programme for the creative and digital industries (CDI) sector, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Notes to editors

Media contact: Charlotte Goldthorpe at Capital B Media charlotte@capitalbmedia.co.uk or 01226 766900

About Kevin Fegan

Kevin Fegan’s career as a highly successful playwright and poet has spanned over 30 years. He has written to commission over 50 stage plays for a wide variety of theatre, including a number of award-winning plays.

He has written several plays and drama serials for BBC Radio 4 and worked as a storyline writer for Granada Television’s Coronation Street. He has also published ten collections of poetry and edited several anthologies. He is a regular performer of his own poetry. Kevin has worked extensively as a writer-in-residence in a wide variety of community and education environments, including in prisons. http://www.kevinfegan.co.uk/

About Bess the Commoner Queen by Kevin Fegan

Bess the Commoner Queen is a new play by Kevin Fegan. It is a unique insight into the political intrigues of Elizabethan England, as witnessed first-hand by ‘Bess of Hardwick’. Bess was the closest female friend and Lady-in-Waiting to Elizabeth I and, at the same time, confidante to Mary Queen of Scots, whom Bess and her 4th husband (the Earl of Shrewsbury) kept under house-arrest for over 15 years until Mary’s execution.

Born a farmer’s daughter, Bess ‘the commoner queen’ rose to become the richest woman in Elizabethan England. She created the Cavendish dynasty and became a maker of queens. Her grand-daughter, Arbella Stuart, was second-in-line to James I and groomed by Bess to become queen. Bess counts amongst her descendants our current Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs to the throne via Lady Diana Spencer.

An ambitious one-woman show presented as a seamless mix of powerful live performance and luscious film shot on location at Hardwick Hall.

Published by Playdead Press.

Reviews of Bess the Commoner Queen by Kevin Fegan at the Guildhall Theatre Derby

“A tour de force, a one-woman show that requires someone capable of holding the audience’s attention throughout. In this Todd succeeds admirably… A striking, outstanding production which is a triumph for both actress Michelle Todd and playwright Kevin Fegan.” (BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE)

“This production deserves to become an award-winner for the way in which it allows the audience to become enveloped in the real world of Bess…The filming all took place at Hardwick Hall earlier in the month and it oozes the atmosphere of the historic surroundings in a way that could never otherwise have been recreated in the theatre.” (ARTSBEAT)

In Good Company (IGC) is the flagship professional creative and business development programme for theatre makers and companies in the East Midlands. IGC’s ERDF-funded business support service provides a wide range of targeted business support, from workshops to one-to-one mentoring, for theatre makers, performance artists, actors, producers, directors and those forging a career in theatre in the D2N2 region (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire).

IGC and Derby Theatre are part of The Big House

Supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), The Big House project, provides free support for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire-based creative and digital businesses. From developing potential business ideas, nurturing start-ups and new entrepreneurs, to working with established businesses wanting to grow, our partner network provides specialist support. You can access grants, 1-2-1 mentoring, networking events and workshops to help build contacts, skills and knowledge to succeed. #TheBigHouse #ERDF. Match funding has also been secured from the Creative Local Growth Fund programme, funded by Arts Council England. 

European Regional Development Fund

The Big House Project is receiving up to £4.5 million of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Derby Theatre (previously Derby Playhouse) is the lead partner of In Good Company and has a long and rich history of delivering high-quality drama to audiences. Through Derby Theatre's unique partnership with the University of Derby, and as an Arts Council England National Portfolio organisation, the Theatre has transformed from a traditional producing house, to an organisation of training, mentorship and artistic excellence.

This press release was prepared by Capital B Media, a public relations and media training agency based in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. For more information, please visit www.capitalbmedia.co.uk.

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