Idea and Music by Kevin Richardson; Book and Lyrics by Ivo Mosley.
LONDON STORIES is a play with music and songs, presenting scenes from London’s history. It was developed at Goldsmiths, London University and it premiered in September 2007 at the Henry Wood Theatre, London.
LONDON STORIES is set in a fairground theatre, where short dramas are played out to punters invited in by a fairground ‘barker’.
The play opens with a father giving his son some money, so the father can escape and have some time off. The barker spots the boy inspecting his handful of change, and lures him in to the theatre.
The boy is initially skeptical, but the barker persuades him to act in some of the scenes.
Various episodes are played out from London’s history. In between, various groups of immigrants arrive and settle to make more vibrant the population of this great city.
FORMAT: Two-act musical drama with interval.
MUSICAL STYLE: Varied and tuneful.
CAST: Optimum cast: at least twelve, with members doubling or even trebling in various roles.
PRODUCTION HISTORY: ‘London Stories’ was showcased at Goldsmith’s College, London, in 2007, directed by Simon Usher.
OUTLINE OF SIX OF THE ELEVEN SCENES:
Outside a penny gaff theatre, a barker is trying to lure people in to watch the show. A boy (who will feature in some of the stories) is persuaded to part with his money.
Scene One: Boudicca
Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni, is in trouble. She hasn’t repaid some money that her husband borrowed from the Romans. A Roman centurion arranges a savage and humiliating punishment. Boudicca goes on the rampage, sacking London.
Interlude1: some Scottish immigrants arrive to rebuild London. They are greeted with ‘Bloody foreigners!’. By the next interlude, of course, they too are Londoners. The theme of the interludes is consistent: time passes, and yesterday’s immigrants become today’s Londoners.
Scene Two: The Wapping Witch
Joan Peterson was hanged as a witch in 1652, framed by neighbours greedy for her property. They claimed that at night she talks to the Devil and changes shape into monsters.
We witness the Witchfinder General relentlessly pursuing the Witch – a woman whose only crime is being different. Some furious antics are staged between stagehands and audience arguing about which time is more horrible and mad: – then or now?
Interlude 2: Some Jewish musicians arrive from Venice in search of a place where they will suffer less discrimination. They find a landlord who will take them in.
Scene Three: Judge Jeffreys
The ‘hanging judge’ is captured by the mob after King James II is sent packing.
The mob subjects Jeffreys to a riotous ad hoc trial. Arguments about justice are settled when a chorus of ghosts sing about how Jeffreys hanged them unjustly. Jeffreys appeals to the lady of the tavern to save him, but she tells the mob to take him away to the Tower of London.
Interlude 3: Huguenots arrive from France looking for the protection of a Protestant King.
Scene Four: Elizabeth Fry.
Londoners, bled by the war with France, are suffering destitution. Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer, persuades a drunken gentleman to help her save a boy (played by THE boy) who is freezing to death with the cold. Later, we see Fry interacting with lady prisoners at Newgate prison.
Scene Five: Spiderman
A father who is not allowed to see his daughter dresses up as Spiderman and does dangerous things to get on the news. He climbs a tall building and sings to a little crowd of onlookers who have gathered, before being blasted to bits by a group of yummy mummmies.
Scene Six: Carnival
An important man arrives. Other Londoners are trying to find Carnival, which has been banned this year and is taking place illegally. The important man tells them all to go home; they are breaking the law. He calls on a policeman to help him. Meanwhile the boy’s father turns up, possibly a bit drunk. He has a go at the important man and the policeman. Eventually, musicians turn up and a rousing chorus unites them all: ‘Sweet Thames Run Softly’.