The Magicians: Dr. Dee, Kelly and the Spirits

Directed by James MacTaggart
Writer: Ken Taylor


  • Alan Dobie . . . . . . . . . Edward Kelly
    Frank Finlay . . . . . . . . . Dr. Dee
    Rosemarie Hall . . . . . . . . . Catherine Dee
    Anthony Kemp . . . . . . . . . Arthur Dee
    Caroline Monkhouse . . . . . . . . . Joan Kelly
    Mary Peach . . . . . . . . . Jane Dee
    John Warner . . . . . . . . . Count Rosenberg

  • The Magicians: Dr. Dee, Kelly and the Spirits

    Men beyond the control of reason are of particular interest to the dramatist, which is why drama has always been concerned with sex and violence. If you are getting tired of these fashionable favourites, here are three plays on a currently neglected aspect of the irrational - the lure of magic.

    All of them are based on fact Dr. John Dee, the subject of the first play, was a mathematician and astrologer to England's Queen Elizabeth I. In his day magic was regarded by many intellectuals as a legitimate branch, if not the true source, of science.

    Certainly Dee approached the subject in the spirit of a true scientist and left for us the fullest and most accurate record of the revelations which were made to him by his strange, perhaps psychopathic associate, Edward Kelly, who communicated with a world or spirits which appeared to him in the doctor's crystal ball.

    The verbatim transcript of these seances provides what is, I suppose, the earliest material of this kind in the English language - produced by a clairvoyant of quite exceptional powers.

    These powers Kelly undoubtedly exploited in ways of which he was probably only half aware. Dee's wife was young and beautiful - almost thirty years younger than her husband. Kelly was married to a girl whom he despised.

    With the influence which Kelly exerted over Dee through the spirit voices, it will not surprise us in these enlightened times to learn that the spirits eventually began to make certain suggestions about the matrimonial arrangements between these four.

    The results have all the fascination of a modern group analysis.

    The hero of the next play Casanova, would have been much amused by the credulity of poor Dr. Dee. Though often sentimental over his sexual adventures, Casanova professed a total cynicism about magic.

    He studied magic with the avowed intention of exploiting the credulity of his fellow eighteenth century men and, of course, women.

    In the third play of the trilogy, the age of reason has borne its sober fruit - the age of science. Magicians now belong to the music halls - or on the Brighton seafront where a man named Albert Smith made his first appearance as a mind-reader and mesmerist.

    Radio Times 12th October 1967