Whispers from the Wings

Giving the Duke some stick

November 14, 2013

Norfolk by Holbein by DayIn the pictures I have found of the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, he is holding two sticks: one of them is the Earl Marshall's baton, and the other one is the Lord Treasurer's staff. I knew that, my character being full of his own self-importance, I should definitely have an Earl Marshall's baton and — as I have told you — made one for rehearsals from a bit of dowel.

Earl Marshall is a very important role — he is sort of Vice-King, if you like, and would take on the monarch's responsibilities in an emergency. In fact the Earl Marshall is, I think, one of only two people who can walk in front of the monarch at a coronation. But they both also have to walk backwards!

In the Holbein painting of the Duke of Norfolk, the baton in his right hand really does look like a simple piece of wooden dowel. The baton I have already made for myself is a bit too thick and I had got a piece of black leather which Maddy — our brilliantly helpful assistant stage manager — stuck around one end for me.

I understand now that the baton was described as gold, with black enamel at one end. So I've got another length of dowel of more appropriate gauge from B&Q and some black enamel paint that will, by Monday morning, look a little more authentic. And it will be gleaming gold, of course.

I've been in touch with the archivist at Arundel Castle, ancient seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, in order to source a more helpful description or illustration. Rebecca, the archivist, thinks this a most interesting quest so I look forward to the possibility of more information from her. We may be looking at the Earl Marshall's baton Mark III soon!

I like to have all these things in rehearsal so that, when we get given "the actualls" once we get to Stratford, I am familiar with how they feel and what to do with them. Who knows, my baton might look so good they let me use it.

And to cap it all . . .
I also have a simple black Tudor 'cap' from Mike the Hat on the internet, with which I can practice doffing every time the king comes in (we learned early on that 'doff' comes from the original phrase to 'do off' one's cap. Similarly, 'don' for 'do on').

Charlie, from the wigs department, came down to try some wigs on us. I really like the one she has chosen for the Norfolk. Just like the one she made me for Toby Belch, it will take years off me!

Which is good because I'm starting to feel my age on account of performing still at the Menier Chocolate Factory from Tuesday to Sunday. The Lyons is now booked out to the end of the run which in just one week's time will leave me free to concentrate on Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies without fear of falling over!

Image: the Duke of Norfolk by Holbein

by Nick Day  |  1 comment

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Nov 19, 9:20pm

Love the posts! I look forward to reading each one.

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Teaching Shakespeare