Literature is not exactly flooded with stories about shoemakers, so when the RSC revives Thomas Dekker’s comedy, The Shoemaker’s Holiday, Cordwainers are bound to sit up and pay attention.
First performed in 1599, the play was published in 1600 probably shortly after it was performed for Elizabeth I. The RSC production runs until 7 March. Their website includes booking details and a blog about 16th century shoemaking.
Rowland Lacy loves Rose Oatley but it’s not going to work out. An aristocrat and a middle class girl aren’t supposed to marry, not least because Rowland is a very bad boy and her parents really don’t approve.
When his father sends him to war to reform his ways, Rowland must take drastic action to avoid any chance of unnecessary personal injury and secretly pursue his love. He goes from riches to rags. Losing himself among the craftsmen of London he assumes the guise of a Dutch shoemaker (he learnt Dutch on his gap year of course) at the shop of the larger-than-life Simon Eyre and his wife Margery who are decidedly on their way from rags to riches.
In his entertaining blog, the director Philip Breen explains the ageless appeal of shoes with the headline, ‘Shoes – sexy since 1599’. Cordwainers, of course, might quibble with the date: we’ve been making them since 1272.