Whispers from the Wings

Grisly wood-cuts

April 24, 2012

Greg employs a much-used RSC device. We are each asked to pick some aspect of 16th and 17th historical life and events that are relevant to the production.

We are to research it and do a fifteen-minute presentation about it to the company. These prove very valuable in enriching our overall knowledge of the period. Jodie McNee spoke passionately about some of the women martyrs and introduced us to Foxe's Book of Martyrs. She showed us some grisly woodcuts that illustrated some of the burnings and executions.

Annette McLaughlin spoke on the way the English Reformation, ineffectually opposed by a population cowed by the new and crushing force of the monarchy, eradicated a thousand years of tradition and ritual. She drew heavily from Eamon Duffy's magisterial work Stripping of the Altars.

Duffy also came and gave us a terrific, indeed an astonishing talk sans notes (of course) about the subject. Jim Hooper gave us 15 minutes on the Separatists who wished to separate from the Church of England and form independent local churches.

Bruce Alexander spoke very eloquently on the context of the Catholic Threat in the years up to 1610. All these were a part of a fascinating number of contributions from most of the company.

I spoke on the Hampton Court Conference, convened by King James at Hampton Court in 1604, to commission the new translation of The Bible. This was a meeting in which my character and his followers were hotly abused by the King.

Coincidentally, my home is only a mile across Bushy Park in Teddington from Hampton Court. I have been walking in that park for nearly forty years. One afternoon away from rehearsals, walking in the park and banging some lines into my brain, I happened to look up as I repeated a speech about the Conference. Right in front of me, past a small herd of deer, I could just see the roof of the Palace chapel. This tiny and unimportant coincidence brightened what had until then been a rather dull learning slog. As an actor it is gratifying to point out that a number of details from our presentations made their way into David's final text.

Written on the Heart from the back of the stage

by James Hayes  |  No comments yet

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