Puffs to debut at the All Saints Centre in Lewes

Subversive wit in Elizabethan England: Leann O'Kasi as the Virgin Queen and Christopher Paddon as Sir Walter
Subversive wit in Elizabethan England: Leann O'Kasi as the Virgin Queen and Christopher Paddon as Sir Walter

A play set in Tudor times by award-winning Lewes poet John Agard will be performed for the first time tomorrow (Saturday).

Puff debuts at the All Saints Centre and is described as a “satirical imagining” of the famously flirtatious relationship between Queen Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh.

Renowned wordsmith John was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2012.

He inspired a new generation recently with a stirring performance at Sussex Downs College, giving a spell-binding recital of his work as part of the College’s celebrations for Black History Month.

Attended by students, staff, friends of the College and dignitaries including the Mayor of Lewes Cllr. Ruth O’Keeffe, the event at the College’s Lewes campus celebrated Caribbean and African culture through food, music, poetry, dance and the arts.

His play will get a second airing at the Friars Walk venue on Sunday afternoon before moving to the Elizabethan Room at the National Portrait Gallery in London for two further performances before Christmas.

Written in verse, Puff is set in an era of enchantment with the wonders of the New World, including tobacco, the Queen herself having been introduced to the puffing habit by Raleigh.

But there is already growing awareness of the black presence in England, as shown by the famous edict to the Lord Mayor of London from the Queen herself, stating that there were “too many Blackamoors in the realm”.

It is perhaps fitting that Guyana-born poet John should turn his subversive wit to that iconic period of history. The play humorously engages with issues of contemporary relevance such as identity and diversity – Raleigh himself was ridiculed by the nobility for having a broad Devon accent.

It features Leann O’Kasi as the Virgin Queen and Christopher Paddon as the famous courtier and explorer.

Puff is a Crosspath Theatre Production and will be on at the All Saints Centre at 8pm tomorrow and at 4pm on Sunday.

Tickets, £10 in advance and £12 on the door, are available over the counter from Union Music Store, in Lansdown Place, Lewes, and Skylark Books, at The Needlemakers. Alternatively they can be obtained online from the Lewes Live Lit website: www.leweslivelit.co.uk