Plays by Jeremy Green

Lizzie Siddal

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Jeremy Green's play Lizzie Siddal is a historical drama charting Elizabeth Siddal's rise from obscurity to fame as an artist's model associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, her own artistic aspirations, and her tragic early death. It was first performed at the Arcola Theatre, London, on 20 November 2013.

The play begins with a short scene set in Highgate Ceremony in October 1869, seven years after the death of Lizzie Siddal, with two men charged with opening her coffin. The action then flashes back to trace her rise from the obscurity of a bonnet shop to model for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, group of young painters – including William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti – who were bent on revolutionising the Victorian art world. Inspired by their passion, Lizzie throws herself headlong into their lives and their art. She nearly dies in the creation of Millais' painting ‘Ophelia’ (lying in a tin bath of water so cool she catches a chill), but the painting is a triumph. Lizzie wants more and dares to dream of being an artist in her own right. Falling in love with the charismatic Rossetti, she becomes his muse, and fulfils her dream of being an independent artist. But independence isn't lasting and she suffers from ill-health and Rossetti's fickle affections, finally succumbing to a laudanum addiction that has fatal consequences. The final scene, seven years after her death, shows Rossetti agreeing to have her coffin opened so that he can retrieve the poems he had buried with her.

The Arcola Theatre premiere was directed by Lotte Wakeham and designed by David Woodhead. It was performed by Tom Bateman (as Dante Gabriel Rossetti), Daniel Crossley (as John Ruskin), Simon Darwen (as William Holman Hunt), James Northcote (as John Everett Millais), Emma West (as Lizzie Siddal) and Jayne Wisener.

Jeremy Green’s other plays include Snakes (Young Vic); an adaptation of The Fwog Pwince (BBC Radio); The Wolfgang Chase (BBC Radio); Fairy Tale and an adaptation of The Proposal by Chekhov (Pleasance).