The Anatomy Of Melancholy

Studio Theatre  

The Anatomy of Melancholy has been described as “the greatest book ever written”. Nearly 400 years old, it is a vast, 1500 page attempt to identify the causes, symptoms and cures for all kinds of melancholy. Written by vicar and librarian Robert Burton it contains all the wisdom of its age – arcane, outlandish and hilarious. Yet, amidst all the wild stories and suppositions, much of its advice remains as urgent and profound now as it did then.

Ten years ago a Serbian Festival Director challenged Stan’s Cafe to adapt this, his favourite book, for the stage, stating that they were the only company he could imagine pulling it off. So this is our attempt to bring The Anatomy Of Melancholy, perhaps the world’s most extraordinary self-help manual, to the stage.

Based on ‘the greatest book ever written’, The Anatomy of Melancholy provides the perfect cure to the ailment: laughter.

Tal Fox – WhatsOnStage

Original Programme Notes

Edited, devised and performed by: Gerard Bell, Rochi Rampal, Graeme Rose and Craig Stephens
Design: Harry Trow
Lighting: Nigel Edwards
Costumes: Kay Wilton
Music: Graeme Rose
Direction: James Yarker

Photography: Graeme Braidwood
Graphic Design: Simon Ford
Dramaturgical Assistance: Zelda Hannay
Burton Consultant: Dr. Erin Sullivan – Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.
General Manager: Charlotte Martin
Advisory Producer: Nick Sweeting
Tour Booking: DEP Arts
Publicity: Mobius

Commissioned by: Warwick Arts Centre
Developed in association with the RSC Studio
And with support from The Wellcome Trust

Thanks to:
Nenad Prokic for inspiring us / kicking it all off.
Alan Rivett for his early enthusiasm & Matt Burman for his subsequent enthusiasm.
Geraldine Collinge and the RSC.
Pete James and Birmingham Central Library.
Tracy Horton and the Centre for the History of Medicine.
Erin Sullivan and the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.
David Sefton and Laytons Solicitors.
Nina West, Rachel Gillard, Philip Holyman, Sadie Plant, Jack Trow and Wendy Houstoun.
For their time and brain power: Dr. Matt Read GP, Prof. Bernard, Lee Hassel, Dr. Mary Ann Lund, Prof. Mark Knights, Rev. Wendy Brown, Dr. Sarah Marks, Dr. Richard Bennett, Dr. Roberta Bivins, Dr. Claudia Stein, Dr. Erin Sullivan and David McDonald.

This show is dedicated to Rebecca Jane.

The Anatomy Of Meloncholy at The REP. [is] like tapping into a rich vein of mineral wealth. So much to take away, so much still to dig out. Have to see it again. The overall feeling I got was reassurance. Reassured that the study of melancholy is so ancient and perennial, and reassured that Stans are brave enough to tackle such an incredible project.

Tony Appleby

Stan’s Cafe bring a whole new approach to a 400 year old text that in it’s original form is hardly a page turner, and turn it into two and a half hours of crackling wit, wise advice and glorious storytelling..

Jo Beggs – The Public Review

Tour Dates

  • 2022
    19 February:
    St. Thomas the Martyr Chuch,

  • 2014
    2 May:
    The Civic, Barnsley

  • 24 April:
    The Lowry, Salford

  • 23 April:
    Borough Theatre, Abergavenny

  • 16 April:
    The Marlow Studio, Canterbury

  • 11 April:
    Key Theatre, Peterborough

  • 9 April:
    CAST, Doncaster

  • 2 & 3 April
    Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton

  • 13 – 15 March:
    The Garrick, Lichfield

  • 12 March:
    Junction, Cambridge

  • 4 March:
    Aberystwyth Arts Centre

  • 26 – 30 November 2013:
    Ovalhouse, London

  • 21 November:
    Lincoln Performing Arts Centre

  • 19 & 20 November:
    Live at LICA, Lancaster

  • 16 November:
    Theatre in the Mill, Bradford

  • 7 – 9 November:
    The Studio, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

  • 12 – 15 March:
    Warwick Arts Centre

  • 26 November 2012:
    Warwick Arts Centre

an entertaining evening from a very talented group of performers

Selwyn Knight – The Public Reviews

35 On-Line Episodes

In the summer of 2020 we adapted our own stage adaptation into 35 epsides for live recording on Zoom. Despite teh vaguaries of internet connections we found rehearsing and recording these episodes a very effective cure for lockdown melancholy. The resultas can be found on our YouTube Channel (with captions) or our Vimeo Channel (without captions)

Scenes from The Anatomy Of Melancholy

In early 2022 we were asked by the Bodleian Libraries to create an event to coincide with an exhibition Melancholy: A New Anatomy. We performed sections from our original stage adaptation as well as screening documentation footage of the original production and a number of our on-line episodes.

Earlier in the day a panel discussed Burton and Theatre.

The day’s events took place at St. Thomas The Martyr Church where Robert Burton was once the vicar.

Went to see the Anatomy of Melancholy at the Borough Theatre Abergavenny yesterday. Was drawn by the idea of such a bonkers project plus, despite having done an English degree, never having read the book and feeling I should add it to my memory store by this relatively easy route. Although I felt some trepidation in the first quarter of an hour or so that I wasn’t going to enjoy it, by the end of the evening I was really pleased to have made the effort. It certainly is one of the more bizarre theatrical concepts I have witnessed, but the cast were brilliant, and I was astonished how they managed to sustain a completely plotless but very complicated script so effectively. And the mechanics of getting all the translations, captions, etc to work in parallel with the words was a masterclass in dramatic technique. Although there were lots of contemporary resonances, they were not hammered home with lots of smirking and long pauses, but the audience were left to absorb things at their own pace and according to their own prejudices and ebbs and flows of attention. I’m sorry the audience wasn’t bigger, and that we didn’t get a chance to applaud you for longer, but it was a memorable theatrical evening (which is a relatively rare thing I find). Thanks.


I loved how you could see absolute contemporary relevance within something that at first appears quite arcane. I thought the design was superb in supporting this in the mix between renaissance and contemporary touches.


Saw Anatomy last night at Rep Studio. Beautiful diction, melodious singing, innovative production, superb performances, fascinating content. Loved it, despite the slightly scary show notes warning me I may float off into distraction. Congratulations all round.

Mary McHenry

Vivid, delightful and provocative