Gallathea is a strange and surprising romantic comedy first performed for Elizabeth I on New Year’s Day in 1588. Love and Chastity are at odds as cross-dressing girls fall in love with each other, Cupid is admonished by lusty nymphs, sexual ambiguities abound and all can only be resolved by divine intervention. Set on the banks of the Humber in a pastoral and mythic England, here Roman Gods mix with English shepherds, alchemists and astrologers with rascally schoolboys, and two fathers try to escape having to sacrifice their daughters to the sea-god Neptune. Three storylines interweave in stunningly beautiful prose, with plenty of confusion and hilarity along the way.
Though now almost forgotten, John Lyly was the most successful playwright of his day, and was Shakespeare’s biggest influence when writing romantic comedy. As You Like It owes a deep debt to this particular play. Funny, joyous, magical, and profound, this is a rare chance to see Lyly in performance. Unique to the festival dates, rehearsals will be open throughout the day and revellers are encouraged to watch the progression of the play and witness the magic of theatre being created in front of them.
Festival-goers will be able to watch the open rehearsal during the day on Friday 9 August whilst Dr Andy Kesson from the University of Kent, guest lecturer at Shakespeare’s Globe and Lyly expert will introduce and illuminate the work of Shakespeare’s best-selling contemporary before the evening’s performance.