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New play follows the life of 18th century poet
A new play based on the life of 18th century poet Anna Seward is coming to her local theatre in Staffordshire more than 200 years after her death. Letters to Emma, which is being performed at the Lichfield Garrick theatre between Tuesday 3rd October and Saturday 7th October, sees the return of the theatre's own Garrick Rep Company. Letters to Emma, which is written by Lichfield playwright Carolyn Scott Jeffs and directed by the Garrick's artistic director Tim Ford, is based on the life of poet Anna Seward, who lived from 1742 until 1809. Distressed by the death of local playwright David Garrick, Anna writes a letter to her dear friend Emma, the first correspondence for more than ten years. But who is Emma, and why did Anna abandon her for so long?
The play, which is described as a ghost story, has been supported by Arts Council England. Born in Derbyshire, romantic poet and novelist Anna Seward was the daughter of a clergyman who moved to nearby Lichfield in 1750 when her father was chosen as Canon of Lichfield Cathedral. Anna , and a few years later the family relocated to the Bishop's Palace, where Seward lived for the rest of her life. Anna was said to have been active in Lichfield's literary community, which included the likes of William Hayley, Erasmus Darwin, and Richard Lovell Edgeworth. Anna's works include Elegy on Captain Cook (1780), Monody on the Death of Major André (1781), and Louisa: A Poetical Novel in Four Epistles (1784), as well as Memoirs of the Life of Dr Darwin (1804), and a biography of Erasmus Darwin, who was the grandfather of Charles Darwin. Anna, whose Collection of Original Sonnets appeared in 1799, is often referred to as the Swan of Lichfield, and many of her poems are concerned with romantic themes. As well as a poet Anna was also regarded as a prolific literary correspondent, and after her death three volumes of her letters and poems were published, with an introduction by Sir Walter Scott. Her complete correspondence was published in six volumes in 1811.
Back to modern day, Carolyn Scott Jeffs is a writer, theatre director and dramaturg, as well as an academic. Her stage plays include Having it All, Wenches, Out in the Garden, Tarnished Angel and Elephants, while her work for Radio 4 includes Angel of New Street, Square Circle Triangle, Tarnished Wings, 21 Conversations with a Hairdresser, 15 Ways to Leave Your Lover, and Jesus, The Devil and a Kid Called Death. She has also written several episodes of the BBC1 serial Doctors. As well as a literary figure, Carolyn has also been a part-time lecturer at Loughborough since 2003 and joined the permanent staff in 2006. Prior to that she lectured at Birmingham University and was the Writer in Residence at the University of the West of England. She was also an acting tutor at Birmingham School of Acting.
Letters to Emma can be seen at the Lichfield Garrick theatre from Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 October, with performances starting at 7.45pm. There is also an additional matinee on Saturday 7 October at 2.45pm. Tickets priced at £17.50 are available by visiting www.lichfieldgarrick.com or by calling the box office on 01543 412121.