Everything you always wanted to know about John Lyly…

20th August 2013

At the end of last week I posted the introductory video to the Shakespearean London Theatres (ShaLT) project. As I wrote then, we have been working with ShaLT for more than a year to make a series of short films about Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre in London beyond the Globe. The first bundle of these films have now been released, and their focus is the playwright and entrepreneur John Lyly. Lyly is a profoundly significant but – outside academic circles – comparatively little-known figure, although there is a growing awareness of his importance, and this will be furthered with the publication next month of new book by Andy Kesson (who is one of our contributors), John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship. This is our film that introduces John Lyly – and then there are three further films below:

The original brief was to make six short documentaries for the project. We decided that one way to help bring this period alive, from which there in any case very few images, was to film five scenes from five key plays – and to use these are one element of the documentaries. We worked with the actor, director and all-round expert on staging early modern drama James Wallace to assemble a talented ‘rep’ company and we shot most the scenes in December (there are blog posts about this here and here) with Sapho and Phao being filmed more recently.

As we worked on these, we realised that it would be engaging – and might be useful to others – if we edited and post-produced the drama sequences as separate films. Which is what we have done, with the first being our scene from John Lyly’s Sapho and Phao, which was first published in 1584:

In addition, we recognised that we had filmed nine exceptionally interesting interviews with major scholars working on early modern theatre, and that it might be similarly useful if these were available at length. So we have tidied these up and are making them available in a penny-plain format as ‘research interviews’. This is the interview about Lyly with Dr Lucy Munro, Senior Lecturer at Keele University (and @lucycmunro) …

… and this is the interview with Dr Andy Kesson, Senior Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at Roehampton University (and @AndyKesson):

We hope you enjoy these – and, just as importantly, that you find them useful. Do please let us know any reactions and responses.

We also want to acknowledge our great collaborators on these films, so these are the credits for the scene from Sapho and Phao:


Bella Heesom (Mileta)
David Oakes (Phao)
Claire Price (Sapho)
Nathalie Armin (Venus)
Robert Heard (Cupid)


Director of photography: Marc Rovira
Sound recordist: Ray Lyttleton
Art director: Hannah Spice
Make-up: Jo Drake
Sound designer: [to come]
Editor: Tor Kristoffersen
Producer: John Wyver
Director: James Wallace

Image: Bella Heesom and Claire Price in a scene from John Lyly’s Sapho and Phao filmed for ShaLT; photograph by Todd MacDonald.


  1. Stuart Ian Burns says:

    Amazing. I can’t wait to watch these later. I bet there was a part of you that wished that you had the time and budget to do the whole play…

    • John Wyver says:

      Oh yes – I think all of us who worked on Sapho and Phao especially wish that there was a fairy godparent who would make available several hundred thousand pounds for the production of a full version of the play. But we felt that about Eastward Ho! also, and The Spanish Tragedy, scenes from which are forthcoming.

  2. Stuart Ian Burns says:

    Kickstarter? 🙂

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