|In Good King Charles's Golden Days|
|Written by||George Bernard Shaw|
|Characters|| Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland Queen Catherine of Braganza |
King Charles II
Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth
|Date premiered||12 August 1939|
|Place premiered||Malvern Festival Theatre, UK|
In Good King Charles's Golden Days is a play by George Bernard Shaw, subtitled A True History that Never Happened.
It was written in 1938-39 as an "educational history film" for film director Gabriel Pascal in the aftermath of Pygmalion 's cinema triumph. The cast of the proposed film were to be sumptuously clothed in 17th century costumes, far beyond the resources of most theatre managements. However, by the time of its completion in May 1939, it had turned into a Shavian Restoration comedy.
The title of the play is taken from the first line of the traditional song "The Vicar of Bray".
The setting is the English court during the reign of Charles II of England (reigned 1660-1685). A discussion play, the issues of nature, science, power and leadership are debated between King Charles II ('Mr Rowley'), Isaac Newton, George Fox and the artist Godfrey Kneller, with interventions by three of the king's mistresses (Barbara Villiers, 1st Duchess of Cleveland; Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth; and Nell Gwynn). The short second Act involves Charles in conversation with his queen, Catherine of Braganza.
Billed as 'A history lesson in three scenes by Bernard Shaw', the first production was at the Malvern Festival Theatre on 12 August 1939, directed by H K Ayliff and designed by Paul Shelving.
Ayliff's production first transferred to the Streatham Hill Theatre on 15 April 1940, then to the New Theatre in London on 9 May 1940.
James Agate, writing for The Sunday Times , noted that the play was the best to have "come from the Shavian loom since Methuselah ".
Ernest Thesiger, who again played 'Mr Rowley', revived the play at the Malvern Festival on 11 August 1949. It was also revived at the Malvern Festival Theatre in 1983.
The first North American production was on 24 January 1957 at the Downtown Theater on New York's East 4th Street, where it ran for nearly two years, one of the longest runs of any Shaw play in the USA (as noted by Lawrence Langner).
A BBC production in the Play of the Month series, starring Sir John Gielgud as King Charles, was broadcast in February 1970.
George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Barbara Palmer, 1st Duchess of Cleveland, Countess of Castlemaine, was an English royal mistress of the Villiers family and perhaps the most notorious of the many mistresses of King Charles II of England, by whom she had five children, all of them acknowledged and subsequently ennobled. Barbara was the subject of many portraits, in particular by court painter Sir Peter Lely. In the Golden Age, it was stylish to adorn an estate with her likeness.
Eleanor Gwyn was a prolific celebrity figure of the Restoration period. Praised by Samuel Pepys for her comic performances as one of the first actresses on the English stage, she became best known for being a long-time mistress of King Charles II of England and Scotland. Called "pretty, witty Nell" by Pepys, she has been regarded as a living embodiment of the spirit of Restoration England and has come to be considered a folk heroine, with a story echoing the rags-to-royalty tale of Cinderella. Gwyn had two sons by King Charles: Charles Beauclerk (1670–1726) and James Beauclerk (1671–1680). Charles was created Earl of Burford and later Duke of St. Albans.
Louise Renée de Penancoët de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth was a mistress of Charles II of England.
Saint Joan is a play by George Bernard Shaw about 15th-century French military figure Joan of Arc. Premiering in 1923, three years after her canonization by the Roman Catholic Church, the play reflects Shaw's belief that the people involved in Joan's trial acted according to what they thought was right. He wrote in his preface to the play:
There are no villains in the piece. Crime, like disease, is not interesting: it is something to be done away with by general consent, and that is all [there is] about it. It is what men do at their best, with good intentions, and what normal men and women find that they must and will do in spite of their intentions, that really concern us.
H. K. Ayliff was an English theatre director who directed Shakespeare in contemporary dress as early as the 1920s, as well as Yellow Sands on Broadway.
Saville Esmé Percy was an English actor who specialized in the plays of G.B. Shaw and appeared in 40 films between 1930 and 1956. He was born in London and died in Brighton.
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Edith "Edy" Ailsa Geraldine Craig was a prolific theatre director, producer, costume designer and early pioneer of the women's suffrage movement in England. She was the daughter of actress Ellen Terry and the progressive English architect-designer Edward William Godwin, and the sister of theatre practitioner Edward Gordon Craig.
Mary Capel, Countess of Essex, born Lady Mary Bentinck, was the daughter of William Bentinck, 1st Earl of Portland, a Dutch and English nobleman who became in an early stage the favourite of stadtholder William, Prince of Orange and his wife Anne Villiers.
The Festival Theatre, now known as Malvern Theatres, is a theatre complex on Grange Road in Malvern, Worcestershire, England. Malvern Theatres, housed in the Winter Gardens complex in the town centre of Great Malvern, has been a provincial centre for the arts since 1885. The theatre became known for its George Bernard Shaw productions in the 1930s and from 1977 onwards, along with the works of Edward Elgar. Up until 1965, 19 different plays of Shaw were produced at the Malvern Festival Theatre, and six premiered here, including The Apple Cart at the opening Malvern Festival in 1929, Geneva, a Fancied Page of History in Three Acts in August 1938 and In Good King Charles's Golden Days in August 1939.
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Nell Gwynn is a play by the British playwright Jessica Swale, begun in 2013 and premiering at Shakespeare's Globe from 19 September to 17 October 2015. It deals with the life of Nell Gwynn, mistress of Charles II, and her part in the theatre of the 17th century. Gugu Mbatha-Raw played the title role in the production debut.
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