new date for 2021 tbc (previously scheduled for September 2020)
Great Hall of the Haberdashers Company
17th - 21th November evening
also matinee on 21th November (Saturday)
at OSO COMMUNITY ARTS CENTRE in Barnes
49 Station Road
further venues and dates to follow
News 9 May 2020
Some more comments from John Mustain (until recently Rare Books Curator at Stanford University):
1. Differences of opinion within the Winslow family: At the beginning of the play, we witness a conversation between a young Edward Winslow (destined to become one of the most prominent of the Pilgrims) and his mother.
Mustain comments:What a nice and nuanced dialogue you have between the Winslows, mother and son. Her plaintive query "Why can't you just accept the articles of the Church of England? Lots of people have reservations, but they just get on with life." This really highlights the price paid for being a Separatist. I, for one, would have followed Mrs. Winslow!
2. The pain of separation from loved ones: Some families were forced to leave young children behind.
Mustain comments: Another wonderful touch: the huge price of leaving an infant behind, as not safe to travel. And the consolation: that when the child was older, he could come on a voyage to the New World. But what a sacrifice for a parent! And there are other issues implied here: 1) the trip is too challenging for an infant and 2) trips are common enough for anyone of the proper age: there were a great many trips between Europe and the new world each year (this still surprises me!), but makes sense.
Latest news (26 April 2020)
We have had some very generous comments from two ex librarians of Stanford University.
They say: Kate, I started your play and was hooked by the second page. They did actually finish it; they particularly liked (sorry, plot spoiler here,) the end when the ship has arrived off the coast of what is now Connecticut, and all the men are asked to sign an agreement laying out certain rules by which the new settlement will be organised.
They say: I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it, Kate. I have to admit: I was a bit sorry to see it end. I mean that. The way you worked in the signing of The Mayflower Compact was beyond marvellous ---I was very, very moved. This was a huge moment in our history (we were still colonies), that an Englishman would come up with an idea such as this, and that signatures really sealed the deal --- what a triumph of democracy in its being done by folks on a ship on a very daring mission. Not democratic in excluding women, of course --- but a huge achievement, so modestly begun and finished. It is overlooked, I think, in our history --- Englishmen and their concept of law and justice, and its being bound by signature. Some few textbooks include it among the important documents of our history, but it really is --- and written and signed long before the more famous 18th-c. documents.
Next we would like to share with you a wonderful story, courtesy of the Haberdashers Company who have so generously supported many of our past productions. Their archivist tells us that they have an illustrious former member called RICHARD ANDREWES with links to the Mayflower. It transpires that Andrewes was one of the so called Merchant Adventurers who sponsored the voyage of the Mayflower. And he wasn't in it just for the potential profit. He himself sailed to America in 1622, and lived the rest of his life there!
For this reason, we are doing a special performance of the play in the Great Hall of the Haberdashers Company on September 17th (Pandemic permitting). We will bring you more information about this exciting evening as events unfold.
The play begins in London with Edward Winslow explaining to his mother why he has to abandon his apprenticeship as a printer in London, and go off to Leiden, in Holland. His religious views, essentially, Puritan, make it impossible to stay in England any longer. The scene shifts to Leiden. We meet John Robinson, minister of the Separatist congregation there, along with William Brewster, who runs the Brewster Press publishing Puritan literature. Essentially he has just been "busted". His premises are being broken into by soldiers. He has to flee. Edward Winslow who works with him is less vulnerable. His wife Elizabeth confides to Pastor Robinson that she really does not want to go to the New World - which is what they are all planning.
In the Winslows' Leiden home, we have a tense conversation between Elizabeth and Edward; he simply can't understand why she does not want to go. William Bradford enters to tell them that things are proceeding with negotiations with the "Merchant Adventurers" - the venture capitalists of their day - to fund their voyage to America. He asks the Winslows (who have to go to England anyway to settle an inheritance question) to contact a man called Thomas Weston who is representing the Merchant Adventurers. He admits his own wife Dorothy is also reluctant to leave Leiden as it will mean leaving their two year old son behind.
In England, the Winslows meet the superficially trustworthy Weston who explains that the Merchant adventurers are intending to form a sort of joint stock company for the settlement in Virginia. The pilgrims would each be given a share worth ten pounds. In return, they work four days a week for the Merchant Adventurers leaving two days to work on their own farms. At the end of seven years, if all goes well, the Pilgrims will all own their own houses. Elizabeth remains dubious.
Back in the Winslows' house in Leiden, there is a planning meeting going on. They have news from their agent in London that Thomas Weston had turned nasty and is demanding that the Pilgrims now work six days out of six for the Merchant Adventurers. All agree that they cannot sign this contract (which has, however, been irresponsibly signed by the London agent). Another problem is that Weston has not found a ship for them. Bradford offers to source one, helped by those members of the Congregation who have shipping experience. The idea is to sail to Southampton where they will meet the "Strangers" recruited by the Adventurers to join them in the trip. Robinson breaks the news that he cannot go with them to Virginia as he needs to look after the remaining Separatists in Leiden. He insists that Elder Brewster will be more than competent to look after them.
In the final scene of Act One, there is an emotional scene in Delftshaven Holland. Dorothy Bradford is grief stricken about leaving her baby son behind. Pastor Robinson preaches an emotional sermon before falling on his knees, with tears streaming down his cheeks, as the ship Speedwell leaves the docks.
In Act Two, we meet Captain Jones of the Mayflower which is still moored in Rotherhithe. We also meet the bullying Henry Martin who has been buying food and supplies on behalf of the Merchant Adventurers (but refusing to co-operate with the Pilgrims). We also meet two of the so called strangers - Stephen Hopkins, a mature man who spent five years in Jamestown, and John Billington, father of two uncontrollable teenage sons.
The Speedwell and the Mayflower arrive in Southampton. There is a tense meeting between Bradford and Weston. Bradford refuses to sign the contract negotiated by Weston, who walks off angrily. This means they are short of funds and are forced to sell some of their precious food supplies from Holland. However Weston does persuade a horrified Bradford to take care of the four More children. Aged between 4 and 7, they have been consigned by their father Samuel for transportation to the New World after the alleged infidelity of their mother. A few days later William Brewster and his wife Mary turn up after spending the last few months on the run. The ships depart from Southampton, but are forced to put into Dartmouth as the Speedwell is leaking. Both ships leave Dartmouth after a week, but two hundred miles away from Lands End, they are forced to turn back again because of the leaking Speedwell. In Plymouth, they realise it is too risky to sail the Speedwell again. Everyone is squashed onto the Mayflower and indeed some of the Pilgrims have to stand down. They leave Plymouth very late in the season on 16th September.
Whilst on board the Pilgrims gather for religious services, often singing Psalm 107. But conditions are made worse by the taunting of an unpleasant sailor and by the fetid atmosphere between decks. The weather turns nasty in mid October. They arrive off Cape Cod in early November, but Jones is asked to turn the ship South towards the Hudson river. It is here where they have patents to the land. As he does so, the ship gets caught up in appalling tides and breakers, and Jones is forced to turn the ship back North towards Cape Cod again. They anchor off Cape Cod on November 21st. Just before they disembark, Bradford and Brewster make sure that all the men have signed the MAYFLOWER COMPACT which provides agreement among them regarding the establishment of the new settlement.
The play ends as the Pilgrims begin to disembark, after the singing of Psalm 107.