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EYAM Music by Andrew Peggie : Book & Lyrics by Stephen Clark INTRODUCTION In 1990 Stephen Sondheim became the first visiting Professor in Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University, We were two of thirteen people invited to participate in the resulting series of master-classes and they began work on Eyam. Under Sondheim's guidance the piece quickly grew and at the end of the year Cameron Mackintosh invited us to present the finished show at his new theatre, The Old Fire Station. The work received much acclaim and we would like to take this opportunity to thank every one involved in its journey: Cameron Mackintosh, our fellow students, the original cast and, of course, Stephen Sondheim. However, as always with any piece of theatre, our most important ally was the story itself. The story of Eyam is all the more poignant because it is true. The events, the people, their relationships are portrayed as they actually happened . . . In 1665 the plague was rife in London. Thousands of people were dying but the plague was largely restricted to the capital. Only occasionally were there outbreaks outside London, but it soon became clear that when it did strike a small and isolated community, the effects could be devastating. Eyam was a small and ordinary lead-mining village of 350 people in the peak district of Derbyshire. Our story starts in the Autumn of 1665, soon after the arrival of a new rector, William Mompesson. Mompesson was a young man, fresh from his studies at Cambridge, and accompanied by his wife Katherine. Although Eyam would not have been his first choice for his first post as a rector, he resolved to do well, and despite the suspicion and wariness of his new parishioners, he learnt quickly. However, in September of that year George Buckland also arrived, as he did every year. He was a travelling tailor who moved from village to village making clothes for whoever needed them. When he arrived in Eyam he measured his customers and then sent for their cloth from London. However, unbeknown to George, when the cloth arrived it was infested with plague carrying fleas. Two days later the tailor was dead. The plague began to spread throughout Eyam and it soon became clear that the villagers were facing a crisis. Mompesson realised that if the plague were to spread outside the boundaries of the village then the whole of Derbyshire, and perhaps all of the Midlands, would suffer the same fate as London. Despite being new to the village, and not yet having gained the trust of all the people, he managed to persuade the villagers of Eyam to stay. They were supported by the surrounding villages with food and supplies during their self-imposed quarantine but over the next 13 months, 267 of the 350 people of Eyam died. Within this extraordinary story of sacrifice and bravery there are many individual stories of how people coped with the fear of the disease. We have taken 11 of these people to tell the story of Eyam, each of whom reacted and coped very differently throughout the 13 months. Although the circumstances must have been appalling, there is much that is life-affirming about the story, and much that is relevant today. Stephen Clark THE STORY Act One Cambridge. We meet William Mompesson practising a sermon to welcome a new congregation, He has just heard that he is to take up his first position at a parish Church and is delighted, although he is finding it difficult to get the tone of his sermon right. He tells his wife, Katherine, the good news and she is also