When Eve Span – a play about the Peasants’ Revolt

When Eve Span - a play about the Peasants' Revolt

Writers Mark O’Brien and John Cresswell are fundraising to produce a play based on Mark’s book about the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381: When Adam Delved and Eve Span.

When Eve Span is an ongoing six-year collaboration between Mark O’Brien and John Cresswell. Way back in 2004 Mark published a small book on the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381: When Adam Delved and Eve Span. A History of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. John meanwhile had been establishing himself as an actor and playwright. After a chance catch-up chat at the bar of the Marxism 2016 event in London, Mark and John hatched the idea of writing and producing a play based upon this amazing story from English history.

Why is this story important today?

During May-June 1381 the peasants of England rose up against their feudal lords and came within a cat’s whisker of overthrowing the monarchy!

It was an amazing episode in English history. It happened a long time ago; over six and a half centuries ago, in fact. The chronicles of the time that tell the story, describe a late feudal society that was very different from our own.

And yet the story of the rising serves also as a hugely powerful metaphor for the struggles of the oppressed and the exploited in every generation since. The Levellers of the English Civil War 1642-1651 celebrated the rising. Thomas Paine refers to the revolt in his 1791 revolutionary pamphlet The Rights of Man. In the twentieth century the historians of the British Communist Party, Rodney Hilton and Hyman Fagan, wrote about it in their The English Rising of 1381 (1950).

Certainly, the great themes of the Revolt are relevant today. Contagion created its backdrop with the Great Plague of the middle of the 14th Century. War dominated English life in the years leading up to it. Taxation antagonised the population, as did the venality of the church and the hypocrisy, double standards and cynicism of the rich. But more than the immediate demands of the revolt, the inspiration of a communist ideal raised the sights of the rebels to imagine a world that could be radically different from the one in which they lived.

The story of the rising is more resonant now than ever before. In this age of pandemic, war, inequality and oppression, we can relate to the sense of social injustice and anger felt by the rebels of 1381. Today, their voices of protest, and their demands for justice and radical social change, still ring down through the centuries.

When Eve Span will tell and perform the story of the revolt for the modern audiences of today’s capitalist, sick and war-ridden world.

Mark and John aim to take a script that is still in development up to a fully staged play that will be performed at venues around the UK. When it is finished the script will be published with Open Book Publishers. This is an open source publisher. The script will be free to download. Production companies and theatre groups will be able to adapt it to suit their cultural and political context, to make it relevant to their audiences.

They are looking for funds to deliver a full-staged production of When Eve Span at venues in London, Liverpool and other parts of the UK.

The script will continue to be edited and improve with each staging, only reaching its final, to-be-published form after several performances.

To help bring When Eve Span to the stage please visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/whenevespan

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