FOUR NIGHTS IN KNARESBOROUGH
by Paul Webb.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 13 August 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 30 July.
Medieval murder caught up comically in everyday reality.
Long before Henry VIII cut his links with Rome and the Catholic Church, Henry II had tried something of the same. And in place of a recalcitrant Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More, the earlier Henry had a recalcitrant Lord Chancellor who was also Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas (à) Becket.
History tells that four knights went to talk sense to Becket, and when he wouldn’t listen killed him. They then holed up for a year in the Yorkshire castle one of them, Hugh de Morville, owned. History’s not exactly forthcoming in saying what went on there, so Paul Webb’s supplied a few ideas in his 1999 comedy.
Apart from pointing out the title would be more accurate if it referred to four ‘Knights’ there’s little to complain about in the grotesque, cruel mix that was soon compared to the violence and comedy combination in Quentin Tarantino’s films. It shows that, even in a spacious castle, it needs more than a single mission to make four people compatible companions for such a time.
Death haunts the action, as do injury and illness; particularly afflictions of bowels and bladder – all doubtless typical of the high-life in 1171. Webb might seem to trivialise an historical episode; but really there’s a serious point about how history happens – the influence of personalities, public reaction and economic realities and, of course, ‘events, dear boy, events’. Plus the way the powers that be are, and the effect of cabin fever, however spacious the cabin.
This revival by Rooster and MokitaGrit at Southwark Playhouse is unevenly acted, some of the lords assembled being noticeably stronger than others. And Catherine, the sole woman so poorly treated in this male world, isn’t brought into focus in Seb Billings’ otherwise quite sharp production.
Certainly, the heightened theatricality of music and lighting surrounding Tony Boncza’s Becket, a remote figure of prayer and the sword, his image still present after his murder, neatly contrasts Boncza’s appearances as a victim turned attacker, and then later, and comically, as a practical man of commerce: the new economic order putting knights and high politics in their place.
Becket/Wigmore/John: Tony Boncza.
Brito: Tom Greaves.
Fitz: Alex Hughes.
Catherine: Twinnielee Moore.
Traci: David Sturzaker.
Morville: Lee Williams.
Director: Seb Billings.
Designer: Martin Thomas.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: Anthony White.
Fight director: Jonathan Waller.
Assistant director: Richard Fitch.