Out of the Shadows

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

I, Spie: The Telling's new concert/play mixes John Dowland, espionage and Elizabethan music

Clare Norburn: I, Spie - The Telling
The early music/theatre group The Telling is returning to live venues with a six-date tour next month featuring the premiere of Clare Norburn's latest concert play I, Spie [read my interview with Clare in which we chat about her new work including I, Spie and her award-winning online series, Love in the Lockdown]. 

Directed by Nicholas Renton and featuring three actors and five musicians, I, Spie tells the story of Elizabethan composer John Dowland's brush with espionage.

I, Spie is centred around an extraordinary letter which Dowland wrote to Queen Elizabeth's spymaster Sir Robert Cecil in 1595.  At the time, Dowland was travelling Europe, having taken umbrage in having not secured a court post as a lutenist when one fell vacant.  Cecil had signed Dowland’s travel papers and probably told him to "keep his eyes and ears open". So when, as a Catholic Englishman abroad, Dowland was approached by English ex-Pats living in Florence and Rome, who were plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I, Dowland sent the information on the plot and key players to Cecil. In I, Spie, Norburn uses her imagination to fill in the gaps in what we know about Dowland's life at that time – what led to the moment of his writing that letter - but also what happened in the aftermath.  

The tour of I, Spie consists of six dates, stopping in North London (Stroud Green Festival), Brighton (Brighton Early Music Festival), Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria and West London from Wednesday 15th October to Sunday 24th October.

The Telling is currently crowd-funding to help support the tour. Please do consider supporting them so that the tour can take place. Further information from the Crowdfunder page.


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