A comedy drama set in the world of 17th century London theatre; Cressida was the first original work by Nicholas Wright to be produced in twelve years since Mrs Klein in 1988.
John Shank is an actor, talent scout and trainer of boy players in the seedily glamorous backstage world of London theatre in the 1630s. Up to his eyes in debt, Shank’s only hope of escaping destitution is an unpromising 14-year-old called Stephen Hammerton, who he hopes to train up and sell off at a good price. The play is a humorous investigation into the fate of these young actors who became virtually unemployable after their voices broke. It also examines themes of rebirth and decay, as each of the adult characters in Cressida was once a boy player himself only too aware of the brevity of their career. This nostalgia is tempered by the looming threat of the Civil War and the hostility of the Puritan movement, who actually succeeded in closing the theatres in 1642. They remained shut for eighteen years but were reopened in 1660 to coincide with the restoration of the monarchy in the shape of Charles II.
Cressida was produced by the Almeida Theatre at the Albery Theatre, now known as the Noël Coward Theatre, in the West End in 2000 in a production directed by Nicholas Hytner and starring Michael Gambon as Shank.