What do you get when you combine Pre-Raphaelite art, an infamous love affair, and music? Possessed is a new musical that examines the life of Jane Burden, from her discovery by Dante Gabriel Rossetti to her meteoric rise to become one of the most popular and iconic models of her age, almost omnipresent in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly those of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Possessed focuses on the relationship between Jane, her husband William Morris (“Topsy”) and Rossetti. The full cast also includes Bessy, the Morris’s housekeeper, Lizzie Siddal, Mr. Carter (the foreman of Morris & Co.), and Jane and William Morris’ two daughters, Jenny and May.
Playwright Teresa Howard became inspired to research Jane’s story following a William Morris exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum back in 1996. For Possessed, Howard (who has written a number of other plays) has teamed up with composer and arranger Steven Edis, who has written and arranged music for numerous theatre and television productions.
Not surprisingly, art plays a central role in the production. During the course of the musical, stained glass windows depicting the tale of Tristan and Isolde are constructed on stage, symbolising the close relationship between art and life and alluding to the link between the story being played out on stage and the story of Tristan and Isolde.
The musical was presented on April 27 at the Oxford Playhouse and was a great success, generating a great deal of interest in the project. Hopefully full scale production of the musical will begin at the end of next year…I can’t wait!
To learn more about this production, visit the The musical’s official website. For up to the minute news and information, visit their blog, Putting it Together.
Rehearsal photo of Anna Francolini as Jane Morris and Joseph Millson as Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Rehearsal Photo by Charles Girdham © 2008, reprinted with permission of Teresa Howard