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Who was the mysterious 'dark lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets?

Preview by Paul Nelson

IN 1609, Shakespeare's sonnets were published with a purchase price of sixpence a copy. The typeset was clumsy and they were riddled with errors.

There are no contemporary references to them, there are only 13 known copies in the world and they were not published again in the poet's lifetime.

It is as if they were withdrawn immediately after their appearance. Had they been published against the author's wishes? Had they offended somebody? Were they never intended for publication?

Three mysterious characters appear in the poems - none have ever been conclusively identified: a fair young nobleman, a rival poet, and a dark enigmatic woman, whose capricious behaviour drives the author 'frantic mad'.

The Sticking Place present Dark Meaning Mouse at the Finborough Theatre from September 9 to October 4, written by Tony Haygarth, best known as a veteran actor of stage and screen who has twice been nominated for Olivier Awards as Best Actor. The play will be directed by Adam Meggido.

Who was the mysterious 'dark lady' of Shakespeare's sonnets? Haygarth's carefully researched and highly poetic play examines the possible, passionate and tempestuous relationship between the Bard and his muse.

Harry Burton will play The Poet, he is the alternative Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady at Drury Lane and recent credits include Victor in Private Lives and Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls at The Crucible, Sheffield. He has done extensive television work.

The Lady will be played by Stephanie Street, whose recent theatre credits are performances in Strictly Dandia by Tamasha Theatre Co. and Rosalind in As You Like It at Greenwich. The Doctor Astronomer is Cornelius Booth who appeared in Accidental Death of an Anarchist at the Donmar and this year completed a tour with The Hobbit.

Apart from his two nominations for Olivier Awards, Tony Haygarth (pictured) is currently appearing in His Girl Friday at the RNT and stars in Edmond, opposite Kenneth Branagh. His previous collaboration with director, Adam Meggido, and The Sticking Place Company was a six-week run at the King's Head Theatre with The Lie.

Dark Meaning Mouse by Tony Haygarth, Directed by Adam Meggido. WITH: Harry Burton, Stephanie Street, Cornelius Booth. Presented by The Sticking Place at the Finborough Theatre, Finborough Road, London SW10, Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm (Sunday matinees 3.30pm). Tickets 020 7373 3842.

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