by William Shakespeare.
Holy Sepulchre Church Sheep Street NN1 3NL To 16 May 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 7 May 7.30pm.
BSL Signed 14 May 7.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 4 May.
Runs 2hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 April.
Symphonic Shakespeare makes a major impact.
Battle rages along the nave of Northampton’s Holy Sepulchre Church, and across into the apses. There’s aptness and irony in performing William Shakespeare’s King John here. John was about the most unChristian King England’s had, yet the Bastard who becomes his faithful sidekick, hailed from Northamptonshire. And a religious veneer covers the play’s power-struggles and rapacity.
Orlando Gough’s remarkable score exploits the acoustic, ranging from plainchant derivatives to nightmarish musical screams. It jars once, when words from The Tempest’s masque invokes classical figures – a Renaissance feature out of place in this medieval world.
Yet matters perceptively culminate in merging sacred and secular as the Magnificats sung throughout the production combine with the similar-sounds in the Bastard’s line “Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!” from his speech on “commodity”. It’s a devastatingly penetrating moment in James Dacre’s production.
John is something of a dry-run for Richard III, though if Richard shows Shakespeare’s conforming to Elizabethan orthodoxy, John avoids the age’s view of the king as proto-Protestant hero who broke, temporarily, with the Catholic Church.
Which is venal and opportunistic, as Joseph Marcell’s Pandulph shows in his calculated delivery. The slippery, dangerous world of power-politics with its swiftly shifting alliances is reflected in the constant rushing, the emptiness of grand declarations and the fierce laments of Tanya Moodie’s dispossessed Constance – outstanding even among this fine company in her handling – clear, flexible yet impassioned – of Shakespeare’s early verse and the Church acoustic.
John lacks Richard III’s self-awareness, as Jo Stone-Fewings shows, instinctively grasping every advantage, head and neck hunching forward to be first in line, seeing the opportunity when the throne’s rival claimant, mild young Arthur, wishes himself dead. It’s poetic justice Laurence Belcher doubles this lost figure, who wanders where others march, with Henry, John’s successor.
Last word goes to Alex Waldmann’s Bastard, John’s ideas man, ever-ready with a scheme. Like everyone in Dacre’s production, he has a well-defined role in the political mess. A plague on all politicians, the result might be, but not upon the theatre companies (Royal and Derngate plus Shakespeare’s Globe) producing this bold, intelligent revival.
Arthur/Henry: Laurence Belcher.
King Philip/Melun: Simon Coates.
Blanche of Castile/Peter of Pomfret: Aruhan Galieva.
Chatillon/Cardinal Pandulph: Joseph Marcell.
Eleanor of Aquitaine/Lady Faulconbridge: Barbara Marten.
Hubert: Mark Meadows.
Constance: Tanya Moodie.
Robert Faulconbridge/Louis the Dauphin: Ciarán Owens.
Salisbury: Daniel Rabin.
King John: Jo Stone-Fewings.
Pembroke/Austria: Giles Terera.
The Bastard: Alex Waldmann.
Director: James Dacre.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: Paul Russell.
Composer: Orlando Gough.
Musical Director: Phil Hopkins.
Choreographer: Scott Ambler.
Voice/Dialect: Martin McKellan, Alex Bingley.
Globe Associate – Movement: Glynn MacDonald.
Globe Associate – Text: Giles Block.
Fight directors: Rachel Bown-Williams, Ruth Cooper-Brown.