Coram in performance

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The story of Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital has inspired and influenced a range of plays and other performances, from a dramatised interpretation of the work of author Henry Fielding to George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, which was based on the story of a girl at the Foundling Hospital.

More recently, the National Theatre has staged a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s Pericles featuring children and young people from Coram’s programmes.

Pericles in rehearsal at the National Theatre

Young people breathe new life into Pericles

A sell-out modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Pericles at the National Theatre featuring children and young people from Coram’s programmes continues the charity’s long relationship with the Arts.

Prince Pericles has everything but understands little. When a reckless act threatens his safety, he must flee his home and take to sea. Reliant on the whims of the fates and the kindness of strangers, Pericles is driven from shore to shore. Only by reaching the ends of the earth may he finally understand what it means to come home.

Young people from Coram were part of a huge company of all ages from across London who worked with professional artists to breathe new life into this classic tale in a musical version on the National Theatre’s Olivier stage in August 2018.

The play launched Public Acts, the National Theatre’s new initiative to create extraordinary acts of theatre and community. The production marks the mid-point of a two-year partnership with children’s charity Coram and other organisations, who deliver visionary work in their communities, together with theatre partner Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. Through Public Acts, participants in Coram’s Young People Programmes had an opportunity to gain confidence in their public speaking and performance skills and also learn to work collaboratively as a cast.

The play received  across the board rave reviews including:

 ‘A joyous musical version of Shakespeare’s Pericles, was defiantly this: inclusive, empowering, revitalising, celebratory, multicultural, multilingual and downright fun.’ The Times  *****

‘An uplifting achievement’  The Independent ****

‘Joyous, lively and community-focused’ The Stage ****

A young person involved with Public Acts through Coram said:

“Since I joined I have really grown. I have developed my social confidence and met lots of new people, it gives you a space to get comfortable and try new things and you never know – you might find some talents you didn’t know you had!”

The NT commissioned Chris Bush, a writer with extensive experience working with large community ensembles, to adapt Shakespeare’s Pericles, which was directed by NT Resident Director Emily Lim.

Simon Russell Beale and Alex Jennings in Spatchcocked! by Bruce McKay

Henry Fielding and The Foundling Hospital

Henry Fielding’s support of The Foundling Hospital is highlighted in a black comedy by Bruce McKay about the writer and Coram’s great benefactor William Hogarth. 

Covering the lives and struggles of Henry Fielding and William Hogarth, the play was performed in 2016 as part of the charity’s 275th anniversary celebrations of the First Admission of a child to the Foundling Hospital in March 1741.  

Henry Fielding, the novelist, magistrate and founder of the modern police force, was called to the bar at Middle Temple in 1739. With his friend William Hogarth, he fought against corruption and injustice and was a supporter of The Foundling Hospital.

 “An entrenched and conservative government, packed with Old Etonians and corruption, controls the press & censors any opposition. The banks have taken over the economy. The new super-rich in “society” are stuffing their purses, avoiding tax, and buying honours, while the poor die in abject poverty. Illegitimate children are being abandoned and left to die all over London.

“Gin, the new cheap street drug, has created a stupified population, a monster crime wave with gangs running rife but there’s no organised police force! 

“Drinking buddies Henry Fielding, successful playwright, and William Hogarth, satirical cartoonist, decide enough is enough!  Meanwhile, Thomas Coram lobbies George II to support the creation of a Foundling Hospital.”  

The cast was led by Simon Russell Beale, (King Lear, The Hollow Crown, Spooks), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Midsomer Murders, Siblings), Oliver Chris ( Bluestone 42, Charles III, Green Wing, One Man Two Governors) and Ron Cook (Mr Selfridge, The Homecoming, Edwin Drood, King Lear NT), among others.