Edmund Kean and Dorchester

THE greatest and most popular actor of his age, Edmund Kean had unexpected and tragic links to Dorchester which are revealed in a play coming to Dorchester Arts at the Corn Exchange on Wednesday 8th May

Ian Hughes, a long-time member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and winner of the first Ian Charleston best actor award, plays the title role in The Dramatic Exploits of Edmund Kean, a humorous and heart-breaking solo show which celebrates the spirit of one of British theatre’s most remarkable talents.

Written and performed by Hughes, the play charts the rise and decline of the great 19th century actor. After years of treading the boards around the country as a strolling player, Kean was catapulted to stardom by his performance as Shylock at Drury Lane in 2014. This engagement arose directly from Kean’s being seen on stage in Dorchester the previous year. But the links with Dorset were also deeply sad. On that same visit, Kean’s young son died and is buried in the churchyard at Holy Trinity on High West Street.

Kean became the most popular actor of his day, electrifying audiences with his Shakespearean performances. But after a few years, his increasingly erratic behaviour – fuelled by alcohol – and scandals in his private life damaged his relationship with the public.

As well as his stage career, Ian Hughes has many television credits including appearances in Dr Who, Robin Hood, Torchwood, Ransom, Gavin and Stacey, Mutual Friends and Stella.