“Laid Siege” Eten Café, Sheffield – report

“Laid Siege” – Eten Café, Sheffield – Saturday 3 October 2015

The English Civil War is usually portrayed as Cavalier -vs- Roundhead or Charles the First -vs- Oliver Cromwell. Of course it was more complex than that.

But let’s forget the supporting cast and the likes of Prince Rupert and Black Tom Fairfax or, on a local basis, John Bright and the intriguing Kelham Homer. Let’s look at the cares and concerns of the common people of Sheffield in the August of 1644 when blood was shed in the vicinity of its castle.

This was the theme of ‘Laid Siege’, performed by a troupe of Sheffield Players in the loft of the Eten Cafe on 3rd October with two well-attended performances on behalf of the Friends of Sheffield Castle (to which generous donations were made).

Finding themselves in that most cruel and divisive of conflicts – Civil War – the townspeople had their usual everyday concerns, aspirations, hopes and fears, not only for themselves but also for the young Maria Beaumont, fallen victim to a fatal illness, daughter of the Commander of the Royalist garrison and the widowed Lady Savile.

The cheerful optimism of the young radical “Digger” and his dreams of a true Commonwealth, the vacillating Steward, the pragmatic, pipe-smoking landlady of the Old Queen’s Head with concerns about the Psalm-singing Puritan troopers, and others, all provided vignettes that are echoed today just as in the days of early August 1644.

The original folksong at the end of the performance expressed eternal optimism for better days and ways that we yearn for in present-day conflicts. An apt finale for the penultimate event in the life of what some regard as “The People’s Castle”.

Yours Truly provided an introduction, with Marie Gilman supporting the event with a small display. But the real stars of the show were the players – to whom many, many thanks for a wonderful performance!

Ron Clayton


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One Response

  1. After writing my review of ‘Laid Siege’I discovered that the first recorded dramatic performance in Sheffield actually took place in Sheffield Castle on the Feast Of St George on the 23rd April 1581.It was described as ‘a tragedy’but its not clear whether it was performed in front of Mary Queen of Scots. [See The Lost Theatres of Sheffield by Bryan D Hillerby 1999 Wharncliffe Publishing]

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