In 1597 Queen Elizabeth I signed a Royal warrant giving theatre managers Henry Evans, Nathaniel Giles and their deputy, James Robinson authority to ‘impress’ boys to be actors in the second Blackfriars Theatre. In reality it was kidnapping against which there were no laws in Elizabethan England. As a result two of the greatest boy players of the age, Nathan Field and Salomon Pavy, suffered ‘impressment’. The setting up of the new indoor theatre ushers a cavalcade of characters into the former Dominican Priory.
It takes two more decades for all the mysteries of the ill-fated Blackfriars Theatre to be solved. It is a theatrical traverse through the final years of Elizabeth’s reign and the first part of the 17th century. The history is fascinating, and the tale, which proves both comic and tragic, will seem far more strange than fiction ever could be.
Jeff Hopkins (1950) is a retired schoolteacher. He lives in Western Australia with his two Labrador dogs, Jack and Sam. As the drama master at a private boys' school he wrote eleven original musical plays and produced and directed them at the school. In 1992 he researched and wrote a family history, 'Life's Race Well Run' and after retiring in 2006 he has written nine novels: 'Reflections' (2016), 'Artifice' (2015), 'Gnarl' (2015), 'The Spiv: The Robbie Sparrow Story' (2015), 'Impressment' (2015), 'Benedict Lovelace and the Travelling Show' (2016), 'Lord Gnarl' (2016), 'Rocking Horse Rider' (2016) and 'The Hydrographer: The Clyde Steadman Story' (2016). Jeff previously maintained he wrote entirely for pleasure, and to fill in the long summer months between football seasons. Recently he has admitted that he set himself the task of writing in a number of different genres as part of a three year programme to learn about creative writing and self publishing. He said it was like an undergraduate degree course for which there was a strict budget and work schedule. It has since become clear that the whole experiment was one of the most interesting and absorbing things he had done in his life. He continues to write.