Brighton Festival Preview: World Premiere of Emma Frankland’s Galatea comes to Brighton Festival

The work of Shakespeare’s best-selling but now long forgotten contemporary John Lyly, will be brought vividly to life in a field on the South Coast this Spring in a radical revival of his early modern play Galatea, adapted by Emma Frankland and Subira Joy and edited by theatre historian Andy Kesson, in a production that fuses together groundbreaking research and experimental theatre. The production will be co-directed and designed by Mydd Pharo of Cornish landscape theatre company Wildworks and presented by Marlborough Productions.

Galatea was written in the 1580s and performed in front of Queen Elizabeth I. Now, this tale of love, joy and the importance of welcoming outsiders will be introduced to new audiences as a resonant story for modern times.

Set in a world where gods walk among the mortals, this unapologetically queer story follows different characters – all lost in the woods. Two young trans people find love whilst escaping oppression; a shipwrecked migrant searches for his family; goddesses clash; parents fret; an alchemist brews magic and a teenage Cupid sets hearts on fire – causing chaos and near disaster.

Galatea is an ambitious collaboration between queer theatre maker Emma Frankland, LGBTQIA+ culture catalysts Marlborough Productions, Wildworks and the brand new research project Diverse Alarums, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This new version of Galatea has been commissioned by Brighton Festival and will be presented outdoors at a large scale, with a vibrant, large cast of LGBTQIA+ and Deaf performers, in nearby Shoreham-by-Sea.  Members of the local community will be invited to join the performance through a process led by Wildworks, who bring 20 years experience of working in the landscape and creating work with community participants.

Director and adaptor Emma Frankland is a live performance and theatre artist whose work is driven by honesty, action and a playfully destructive DIY aesthetic which generates strong visual imagery. Her text “None of Us is Yet a Robot – Five Performances on Gender Identity and the Politics of Transition” was published by Oberon Books. In adapting Galatea she worked with Black, trans, genderqueer spoken-word performer and activist Subira Joy and for BSL translation with actor and Deaf advocate Duffy.  All performances will be in English and BSL and will be captioned.

The revival of Lyly’s Galatea forms part of academic research project Diverse Alarums, which explores the potential for early modern plays in contemporary performance to enable new creative and engagement opportunities for marginalised performers, practitioners, and audiences. The project builds on Emma Frankland and theatre historian Andy Kesson’s collaboration over many years and seeks to discover a more diverse early modern performance canon. Diverse Alarums combines Andy’s work with Sandra Nelson, a specialist in contemporary media, audience communities and transgender narratives, and Erin Julian, a specialist in early modern archival records, performance and gender.

Speaking about Galatea, Emma Frankland said “I’ve been working towards this production for 7 years now and I’m really proud to share the results of such a long period of development. This production will be the result of so many brilliant artists, writers and thinkers who have been part of the journey.” 

“It really feels like a collaboration with the original text – what Lyly wrote is beautiful, funny and exciting.. especially because of how exciting it is, as a trans person, to see yourself reflected in such a historic play, when usually we are supposed to not exist! I think that our adaptation builds on what Lyly wrote and makes it really relevant for today. Yes it’s a play about two trans people in love, but it’s about acceptance in general and about how a community thrives when it is open to change. When it is accepting of those who are different.” 

Andy Kesson said “There are so many reasons to be excited about staging Lyly’s Galatea, which has a claim to being Shakespeare’s favourite play, a work Shakespeare never quite got out of his system which set the scene for what we now think of as Shakespearean comedy. But I’m even more excited to see what happens when we stage classical plays in a production which centres all of our creatives and celebrates the identities most often marginalised in classical theatre, and everywhere else in modern life”.

John Lyly (1554-1606) was a writer and dramatist in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I who quickly became famous for his eclectic writing style, humour and influence and whosework outsold the likes of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and John Donne. Unlike the work of many of his contemporaries, Lyly’s work regularly focuses on central female figures and queer storylines, prisoners of war and children with learning difficulties. His play The Woman in the Moon features the longest part for a female character in all English early modern drama. He was the best-selling writer of his era and a core influence on Shakespeare, in particular, his comedies A Midsummer Night’s DreamTwelfth Night and As You Like It. 

Listings information

5 – 21 May 2023
Adur Recreation Ground, Brighton Rd, Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex BN43 5LT
 Preview Friday 5 May, 8pm
 Saturday 6th – Sunday 21st May (Wednesday-Sunday), 8pm
 Sunday 14th and Saturday 20th May, 2pm

Tickets 25 (£17.50 concs) Preview Price £15
 Festival Stand by £10 (available on the day, in-person, from 10am from the Brighton Dome Ticket Office)

Running time: 2h,30 including interval
Age Guidance: 8+

British Sign Language – all dates | Captioning – all dates | Wheelchair accessible – all dates | Audio Description and tour tours Sunday 14th May, 2pm and Thursday 18th May, 8pm

Credits and Creative Team

Galatea by John Lyly | Adapted by Emma Frankland and Subira Joy, edited by Andy Kesson with BSL translation support by Duffy
Commissioned by Brighton Festival | Presented by Marlborough Productions
Co-Produced by Emma FranklandMarlborough ProductionsWildworks and Andy Kesson
Directed by Emma Frankland and Mydd Pharo
Designer Mydd Pharo
Lighting designer Joshua Pharo
Associate Directors Duffy and Andy Kesson
Dramaturg Subira Joy
Design Associate Ellie Williams
Design Assistant Ica Niemz
Researchers for Diverse Alarums: S. L. Nelson, Erin Julian 

About Marlborough Productions
A catalyst for culture and community, Marlborough Productions are a leading UK producer of intersectional performance, parties, heritage and radical community gatherings. Led by CreativeDirector Tarik Elmoutawakil and Executive Director David Sheppeard, over the past ten years,Marlborough Productions has been recognised nationally and internationally for commissioninginnovative new work from extraordinary artists, reclaiming spaces to create and share cultureand developing communities.Marlborough Productions is a registered charity (no. 1145506) and is grateful for support fromPaul Hamlyn Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation ArtsCouncil England, Baring Foundation and Sussex Community Foundation.

About Wildworks

Wildworks is the UK’s leading landscape theatre company. They make site-specific theatre with communities locally, nationally and internationally.  They started in Cornwall, and that remains their emotional and physical home. Drawing inspiration from Cornwall’s extraordinary natural and post-industrial landscape they continue to build on Cornwall’s long history of working outdoors. The lived experience of local people is at the heart of their work and without their participation, the work cannot happen. Their process gives voice to, often marginalised, communities who help them shape the telling of everyday human stories in ways that are familiar and re-imagined. Everyone is invited. Recent Wildworks locations have included Belgium, Palestine, Malta and UK beaches, gardens, castles, skylines, basements and more.

For more information about WildWorks please contact or visit

Core funders: Arts Council England and Cornwall Council 

Travaux Sauvages Ltd t/a Wildworks is a registered charity number 1139598 

About Brighton Festival 
 Established in 1967, Brighton Festival is the largest and most established annual curated multi-arts festival in England. Taking place over three weeks in May, the Festival is a celebration of music, theatre, dance, art, film, literature, debate, outdoor and community events in venues and locations across Brighton, Hove and Sussex. 

Since 2009, Brighton Festival has attracted inspiring and internationally significant Guest Directors who bring cohesion to the artistic programme. The inaugural Guest Director was Anish Kapoor (2009) and has subsequently included prominent cultural figures such as Laurie Anderson (2016), Kae Tempest (2017), David Shrigley (2018), Rokia Traoré (2019), Lemn Sissay OBE (2020/21) and Marwa Al-Sabouni & Tristan Sharps (2022). Brighton Festival’s Guest Director for 2023 is the musician, DJ and broadcaster Nabihah
 About Diverse Alarums
Diverse Alarums is a research project led by Erin Julian, Andy Kesson and Sandra Nelson, and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The project explores the potential for early modern plays in contemporary performance to enable new creative and engagement opportunities for marginalised performers, practitioners, and audiences. It builds on Emma Frankland and Andy Kesson’s collaboration over many years around John Lyly’s Galatea and, more broadly, around the possibility for a more diverse early modern performance canon. The play has almost no stage history since 1588, and it is only starting to gain recognition amongst academics and students, largely because of the work and work-in-progress of this project’s members.

Andy Kesson is an award-winning theatre historian and teacher whose work has raised two and a half million pounds of funding for research and performance, in particular working with marginalised communities. He has worked with experimental, fringe and mainstream theatre companies and practitioners, from Emma Frankland to the Royal Shakespeare Company, and led research projects on the earliest English playhouses (, the history of bears in England ( and the contemporary performance of early modern plays ( He is the author of John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship, and his work ranges across the fields of literature, performance, archaeology, ancient-DNA analysis, animal studies and queer, trans and disability studies. He advises universities in the European Union on bringing academic research to public audiences, and runs the online educational platform. A Bit Lit ( a theatre historian with over twenty years’ experience working across the theatre and university sectors. He is the author of John Lyly and Early Modern Authorship, has edited essay collections on print popularity and early English theatre, and is a regular advisor and collaborator in the theatre, from the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe to fringe and experimental companies.

S. L. Nelson is a researcher in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities at the University of Sussex. Operating at the intersection of media and communications, cultural studies, and the digital humanities, their work examines the political, economic, social, and technological factors involved in contemporary mediation. As the Co-Investigator on the Diverse Alarums project, they are interested in the theoretical, methodological, and practical aspects of staging a production of Lyly’s Galatea that speaks to current socio-political issues around intersectional marginalised identities and the ways in which audiences and communities engage with these issues through the performance.

Erin Julian’s research connects early modern archival records and performance, with particular interest in gender, violence, and ethical practice. She is currently writing a new book, “Imperilled Performance”, which explores how musical and dramatic performance led by people of marginalised genders fosters resilience and joy in persecuted royalist and recusant communities. Her work includes collaborative performance research, including working with Engendering the Stage’s laboratory with Stratford Festival in 2018 and co-leading a performance ethnography study around inclusive practice at Stratford. She has published on performance research practice in Shakespeare Bulletin and The Arden Handbook to Shakespeare in Contemporary Performance.