Dr Freyja Cox Jensen

Research through practice

With Emma Whipday (UCL and Oxford), I am working on a practice-based project which uses, as its focal point, a play from the 1590s referred to in Henslowe's diary as 'A tragedie called Merrie'.  Based on a real murder, the plot is also found in Robert Yarington’s composite narrative, Two Lamentable Tragedies (1601), from which our text has been excerpted.

Our project explores both the text, in particular, and the world of the early modern stage more broadly.  We are interested in understanding how early modern rehearsal practices assist and challenge modern actors in performing character, and thus how they might help us to understand the gaps between early modern theatre, and theatre today.  We are also keen to explore the relationships between history and literature, tragedy and comedy, and the domestic and the communal, through this domestic tragedy, and to discover what practice as – and as a complement to – research, can teach us about early modern drama, culture, and society, and the lived experience of sixteenth-century actors and spectators. 

We staged 'The Tragedy of Thomas Merry' in London, in March 2014, in partnership with independent actors and members of Reverend Productions (http://www.reverendproductions.com/).  Our blog can be found here:  https://twolamentabletragedies.wordpress.com/  Using original practices – including actors’ parts, a brief rehearsal period, and a ‘bookkeeper’ – we explored how these methods illuminate spatial dynamics and character development for both actors and audience.  We are continuing to work with the actors to assess what impact, if any, the play has had upon their professional practice.  An article discussing our findings will appear in a forthcoming edition of The Shakespeare Bulletin.

I am also engaged in a collaborative project based on an exploration of popular song in the longer early modern period, with my brother, Oskar Cox Jensen (UCL).  At present, the group of musicians we work with is focusing on songs exploring the experience of the Peninsular and Napoleonic Wars, with a series of performances coming up in 2015, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.  Examples of some of our early recordings can be found here: http://songsofwaterloo.com/   Future work, with various creative partners, will look more widely at ballads and the role of the ballad singer in the period 1450-1850.