Edinburgh Fringe 2022
A Rose by Any Other Name
Wait! Someone Else Wrote Shakespeare?! Charismatic Irish actor and lawyer Rose Loughlin debuts a show charting the colourful journey of her real-life experiences to discover who is the real Shakespeare? Fascinated by evidence in favour of Elizabethan writer Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, Rose travels to places associated with him. From clues in Cambridge, to proof in Padua, and validations in Venice, she offers incredible insights, tales of entertaining encounters, and moving monologues. Underpinned by themes of personal transformation and the joy of discovery, her charm and conviction will awaken curiosity. Interval.
Hi Rose thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been keeping?
Really good, thank you! Coming to Edinburgh Fringe for the first time ever and doing so as a performer with my own show has been a baptism of fire. I feel I will be changed somewhat at the end of my two week run.
What has it meant to you to debut A Rose by Any Other Name at Edinburgh Fringe and Paradise in the Vault after everything that has happened?
Well it has been three years since the last full Edinburgh Fringe and it feels like there is all this pent up artistic energy being released. I certainly feel that's what it's like for me! While it was great to be able to engage with theatre during Covid via online means, it's just not the same as being in an actual theatre surrounded by other people. I had hoped prior to Covid to put a version of this show on a few years ago, but during the writing process I realised that the piece was emerging somewhat differently than I had envisioned, and I just ran with that. The show has become much more personal as a result. I feel honoured to be able to debut it here in Edinburgh at the Fringe in the lovely black box space that is the Annexe, one of the spaces that Paradise Green has within the Vault.
Did you have any nerves ahead of your first show at the Fringe?
Absolutely - in fact I was too anxious to do any flyering prior to the preview night, even though I arrived in Edinburgh a week before! I felt I just needed to get that preview out of the way, feel my feet on the stage and get used to the space, before I could go out on the street and market the show to passersby. Now I am settled into doing some flyering every day, which actually helps to alleviate performance nerves, if truth be told, because I am starkly reminded of the vibrant activity of every day life is going on all around me.
You have had some really wonderful audience reviews for A Rose by Any Other Name, did you imagine you would get this type of response to your play?
There is so much uncertainty going into this process. Because it is the first time I have written a piece of performance art I had no similar experience to compare it to. On one level, I know how much I believe in the piece - on another level, I had simply no idea how audiences would react - would they enjoy the experience of the thread of the story unravelling, would the subject matter be of sufficient interest? These were the questions I wrestled with. To now get such positive and complimentary reviews is hugely affirming, I’m most grateful.
Can you tell me a little bit about how A Rose by Any Other Name came about, where did your interest in Shakespeare and his real identity come from?
Of course. A number of years ago, I had the opportunity to take a classical acting class. I had a brilliant teacher Andy Hinds, who I studied with on a weekly basis. In the course of those studies, I came to love Shakespeare's language deeply - it was such a challenge and delight learning to perform it. Quite randomly during that time I came across a documentary Last Will and Testament which was broadcast on Sky Arts, about the subject of Shakespeare authorship and which proposed that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford used William Shakespeare as a pen name. Being a lawyer, as well as an actor, I took a keen interest in examining source evidence for this claim and became convinced by the argument. I decided to visit those places where Edward de Vere lived and travelled to, namely around England and Italy. I had some beautiful experiences on those travels, so much so that I wanted to share them in the form of a one woman show.
The Shakespeare community can be a little "touchy" when people question his identity (and that movie Anonymous can't have helped), did you have any apprehensions about writing a show that could/would explore Shakespeare's identity?
As an Oxfordian (a person who advocates for Edward de Vere as the author of the plays and poems under the name William Shakespeare), I was aware of how thorny the discussion around this proposition can be. And now here was I, diving into the thick of it by writing and performing my own show on the subject! In creating the piece, I had a strong sense that the writing needed to centre on my personal experience with this subject and my experiences on the trail of Edward de Vere, rather than attempting to convince an audience of what I consider is the case. In sharing something deeply personal, there is an opportunity to touch an audience. Those who may be curious enough to investigate further can then read up on the evidence as they see fit.
"I found the best way to write was to put everything down on paper that I had discovered and leave it for a while, mull over it, read it out loud, allow it to affect me in my body and then notice what were the images and dramatic points seeping out from the density of these early drafts."
What was the first clue or piece of information you discovered about Edward de Vere that was a lightbulb moment for you?
Gosh there have been so many. One of the main ones is Edward's background in a courtly environment and his deep learning from early childhood throughout his life, as well as his familiarity with Italy from having spent many months there. It is clear that whoever wrote Shakespeare was educated to a very high level and was very knowledgeable about law, medicine, music, Greek and Roman literature, the French language, Italy, falconry, jousting and botany.
Reading about this in what is still one of the best books on this subject - ‘Shakespeare identified in Edward de Vere’ by J. Thomas Looney had the scales falling away from my eyes. It was revelatory and emotional.
With so much history and research you did for A Rose by Any Other Name how did you go about editing this?
It was a long process. I found the best way to write was to put everything down on paper that I had discovered and leave it for a while, mull over it, read it out loud, allow it to affect me in my body and then notice what were the images and dramatic points seeping out from the density of these early drafts.
It was such a balancing process - giving enough background context about Edward de Vere versus speaking about my travels on his trail, interspersed with some monologues from Shakespeare!
During this whole process what would you say have been the most important thing you have discovered about yourself?
That I have perhaps more resilience within me than I was aware of!
With a fringe show like this have you allowed yourself much flexibility with the material once the show started running?
Yes and no - any refinement in the writing was done in the course of the rehearsal process. However every time I go on stage I experience new ways of finding expression in the words I have written and in communicating these to the audience.
Coming from a law background where did your passion for theatre come from?
I think it was in me always, but those pressures that go with pursuing education and starting a career meant I didn't explore it until adulthood - I have a memory from when I was a ten year old of doing an improvisation acting session at school one day and I felt immense joy.
Will you continue to explore Shakespeare in future shows or are there other themes you are looking forward to exploring?
I would like to write a two hander play comprising a debate about the Shakespeare authorship question.
What has been the best piece of advice you have been given? Be in process - the path is the destination.
Do you have a favourite Shakespeare quote?
Yes, some of Hamlet's dying words - "If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart/Absent thee from felicity awhile/And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain/To tell my story".
And finally, what do you hope your audience will take away from A Rose by Any Other Name?
Curiosity about the subject of Shakespeare authorship and Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. I hope audiences will also appreciate how exciting it can be to go on one's own personal journey, following one's nose in an area that sparks intrigue - there is such joy to be found in the discovery of new insights and perspectives.