Peter Sutton's play, Elgar and Alice, is set in 1920 at the Elgars’ home in Hampstead, and explores the extraordinary marriage that resulted in great English music ranging from Land of Hope and Glory to oratorios, symphonies and popular songs.
Elgar and Alice was first performed at the Swan Theatre, Worcester, on 5th June 2007, to mark the composer's 150th anniversary, and toured to Hampstead, Sussex, Harrogate, Oxford and Hereford – all places associated with Elgar.
Sir Edward Elgar was played by Gerald Harper, familiar from film, theatre and television roles including Hadleigh and Adam Adamant. Janet Hargreaves was his wife Alice, Joy McBrinn played Alice Stuart Wortley, and Katrina Norbury was Sarah Allen.
I was immensely pleased to undertake a happy period of rehearsals, then stick on that massive moustache and commence the tour. It was a joy to do, and meant a great deal to me.
Elgar and Alice returned to the Swan Theatre Worcester as part of the 2011 Three Choirs Festival. The Director was Chris Jaeger, and the cast comprised John Horton, Julie Hobbs, Liz Grand and Gabrielle Bullock.
The play received its third production in 2016, when Global Productions performed it at venues in the east of England, directed by Michael Philips. The 2016 production of Elgar and Alicewas sponsored by the Elgar Society.
Professional performance – by negotiation
Amateur performance – please enquire before booking a venue or starting rehearsals, providing full information about the proposed production: contact name and full address, name of company, name, location and size of venue(s), proposed dates and number of performances. If a venue is outside the British Isles, please state the country and nearest major city.
From time to time it may be necessary to suspend permission for amateur productions.
All enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
We congratulate you on your achievement.
My wife and I were absolutely bowled over by your play about Elgar. A really marvellous achievement.
Sir Charles Mackerras
Very neat. It's neatly done, altogether. Sutton's text, equally neat, builds in Elgar's searing awareness of his humble origin and self-made stature... and her unthinking snobbery. More fundamental is her pride in her poems, which she longs for him to recognise. Alice's hurt at being a second-best amanuensis flares into jealousy of his succession of friends-patrons-muses.
Elgar and Alice is an absorbing work which gives an insight not only into the Elgars’ married life but also into the working of the artistic mind. Peter Sutton’s portrayal of his characters bore the stamp of authenticity. This play deserves to find a larger audience in all places where Elgar’s music is performed and appreciated.
Seen and Heard International (MusicWeb International)
Sutton’s masterpiece…is a truly powerful drama… Sir Edward Elgar is one moment playful, the next cantankerous. He is as unapproachable as he is engaging. As the tensions between Elgar and Lady Alice surface, so do the insights into their marriage. He disregards Alice's poetry, treats her, at times, like a child and it's upsetting to watch. He repeatedly tells her she doesn't understand him, never has and never will, and it's heartbreaking.
Peter Sutton has got right under Elgar’s skin. Each character is quickly drawn, and there is humour and wit, physical energy, and emotional tension. The deeply affecting conclusion is the stuff of us all. This is a play which asks questions; it moves; it hurts; it is funny. Its end even suggests an answer to the eternal Enigma question.
Martin and Jane Bird, Elgar Society Journal
When Alice Roberts, daughter of a major-general, married her piano teacher, her family was horrified to be linked to a tradesman. That was one reason for the underlying tension in the marriage of Sir Edward and Lady Elgar. Others explored in this absorbing new play include his refusal to set her poetry to music and, most notoriously, his relationships with other women. Sutton does a skilful job of weaving historic information, and Elgar's reflections on his art, into a plausible picture of the Elgars at home.
The archive photographs on this page appear by courtesy of the Elgar Birthplace Museum.