New Play Celebrates Life of Bess of Hardwick

New Play Celebrates Life of Bess of Hardwick

Derby LIVE is pleased to announce that Bess, a new play by Kevin Fegan, will be performed at Derby’s Guildhall Theatre from Thursday 28 September to Sunday 1 October. The play was commissioned by First Art and in association with Derby LIVE.

Telling the story of the life and times of Bess of Hardwick, surprisingly, this is the first drama to capture this extraordinary woman and her extraordinary times. Bess takes centre stage in this one-woman show mixing theatre with film.

During a life of over 80 years, Bess rose from being a Derbyshire farmer’s daughter with 400 acres to become Elizabeth Countess of Shrewsbury with 400,000 acres. Midst all this she would marry four times, become a Lady-in-Waiting and confidante of Queen Elizabeth 1st – “jailor” to Mary Queen of Scots, even spend time herself in The Tower of London and become the founding mother of the Cavendish dynasty, the Dukes of Devonshire. The life and times of Bess of Hardwick is in every way an epic life-telling.

Over 400 years later the Bess legacy lives on today through the country’s most titled and wealthiest families notably via the Cavendish-Bentinck line to Queen Elizabeth II. There are strong connections to Derby in her story, with the famous Hardwick Hall (built by Bess in the 1590s, and still baring her initials E.S.) set in the Derbyshire Countryside and Bess herself buried in a tomb in Derby Cathedral. Bess is still remembered for great houses – Chatsworth and Oldcote were also built by her. As well as magnificent manor houses, Bess commissioned an almshouse in Full Street, Derby, for 12 elderly people.

She arranged the marriage of her daughter, Elizabeth Cavendish, to Charles Stuart, and her granddaughter Arbella Stuart, was second in line to the throne. Through her children Bess founded the Dukedoms of Devonshire, Portland and Newcastle and the Barons Waterpark, and it is thought that every aristocratic family in the UK – including the current monarchy – are related to Bess.

Kevin Fegan is a playwright and poet, who has written more than 50 plays to commission. He has won, and been nominated for many more, awards for his work. This includes winning Best New Play in 2011 for Slave as well as 9 nominations for other work in the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards. Kevin has also published 10 books of poetry and created plays for BBC Radio 4.

Bess will be performed at the Guildhall Theatre from Thursday 28 September to Sunday 1 October. Tickets are priced at £15 and concessions are available. Tickets can be purchased through the Derby LIVE Box Office on 01332 255800 or on They can also be purchased at the Sales and Information Centre, on the Market Place, Derby, DE1 3AH.

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