Pictures of Lyly

29th June 2013

On Thursday we filmed a scene from John Lyly’s 1584 play Sapho and Phao for the Shakespearean London Theatres project (ShaLT). That day I wrote Gentle ladies and gentlemen… John Lyly!!!, a post about the dramatist and this bitter-sweet tale of love and longing taken from Ovid. Our director James Wallace (who this weekend is staging Lyly’s The Woman in the Moon at Glastonbury with Shakespeare’s Globe) chose a scene in which Queen Sapho (played by Claire Price) has had her lady -in-waiting Mileta (Bella Heesom) summon the ferryman Phao (David Oakes) to cure a fever. After speaking together, Sapho and Phao are visited by Venus (Nathalie Armin) and Cupid (Robert Heard). Across the jump is a selection of great photographs from the day taken by Todd MacDonald.

Filming Sapho and Phao at the Theatre, Toynbee Hall

Above is the stage at the rather wonderful Theatre at Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel, which is the space that we used as a studio. This would have been pretty much perfect had it not been for the musical being rehearsed on the floor above. To be fair, they were not bouncing around all of the time and we had long periods of near-silence (which is hard to achieve anywhere in central London).

Above, Ray Lyttleton (sound recordist), director James Wallace, director of photography Marc Rovira (hidden) and first AD Tor Kristofferson (who is also editing) set up a shot with Robert Heard (Cupid) and Claire Price (Sapho).

Phao        It were best then your Ladyship give me leave to be gone; for I can but sigh.
Sapho      Nay stay; for now I begin to sigh, I shall not leave, though you be gone. But what do you think best for your sighing to take it away?
Phao        Yew Madam.
Sapho      Me?
Phao        No Madam, yew of the tree.
Sapho      Then will I love yew the better. And indeed I think it would make me sleep too, therefore all other simples set aside, I will simply use only yew.
Phao        Do madam; for I think nothing in the world so good as yew.

Venus      Is not your name Phao?
Phao        Phao, fair Venus, whom you made so fair.
Venus      So passing fair, O fair Phao, O sweet Phao; what wilt thou do for Venus?
Phao        Anything that cometh in the compass of my poor fortune.

Sapho Farewell for this time. She sleeps.

Venus    Sapho, I have heard thy complaints and pitied thine agonies.
Sapho    O Venus, my cares are only known to thee, and by thee only came the cause.

Cupid   I was blind, and could not see mine arrow.

Venus    Be not dismayed. Phao shall yield.
Sapho    If he yield, then shall I shame to embrace one so mean;if not, die because I cannot embrace one so mean. Thus do I find no mean.
Venus    Well, I will work for thee. Farewell.
Sapho    Farewell, sweet Venus, and thou Cupid, which art sweetest in thy sharpness.

A thousand thanks to our exceptional cast and excellent crew.

The images (with a couple of additional ones) are also posted as a Facebook gallery.

The edited scene will be available on the Shakespearean London Theatres project (ShaLT) website and on YouTube in a fortnight or so.


  1. Blog post title of the year!

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