Room at the Hanse (formerly Room at the Gin) Theatre Company is throwing everything except the kitchen sink at its King’s Lynn Festival and wider Norfolk audiences this July.
The company, which specialises in telling East Anglian stories through poetic and non-realistic (as opposed to kitchen-sink) theatre and in using Norfolk actors and musicians, is staging two plays celebrating Lynn’s Year of the Hanse as part of the King’s Lynn festival fringe.
On Friday, July 17,the company will stage A Nice Guy the burning of William Sawtrey in its home courtyard at Hanse House in Lynn, England’s only remaining Hanseatic building.
True to its medieval subject – the martyrdom of a King’s Lynn priest in 1401 – the first man to be burned for his beliefs in England and a forerunner of the Reformation – the play has been written as a verse Morality play presenting characters as Flesh, Mind (represented by the contemporary Julian of Norwich) Soul and World (represented by the Bishop Dispenser who condemned William). In a distinctly modern touch, God will be played by and as a woman.
Specially composed music accompanies much of the action and a real ‘guy’ will be burned! (unless an act of God – rain – drives the show indoors).
A week later the company tells the story of Margery Kempe, author of the first autobiography in English.
Margery’s proto-feminist challenge to the patriarchal society of medieval England is taught in American universities and Lynn should make more of her ‘do different’ daughter. A wife and mother of 14 children, and daughter of the mayor and MP of Lynn, she attempted all her life to follow a life more acceptable to a monk or an anchoress (like Julian of Norwich, whom she met and who admired her) much to the alarm of the church authorities. She was condemned by Archbishops and mayors but championed by humbler clerics like Alan of Lynn and the Vicar of Sedgeford.
‘Margery Kempe the Wife of Lynn’s Tale’ will be staged as three monologues in Lynn Minster (Margery’s parish church). Her scribe, her father (John Brunham, a leading Hanse merchant) and the mystic herself tell Margery’s story from different angles building up to a multi-faceted celebration and leaving the audience to decide what they think. She divided opinion then and still does now – genuine mystic/heretic or victim of post-partum psychosis? Either way she was a woman centuries ahead of her time.
Joanna Swan, co-star of the acclaimed touring Stuff of Dreams/ Creative Arts East production The Burnham Poisoners plays Margery and her skills as a professional singer and as a director – this monologue is her own production – add a special guest element to this part of the show. David Frost’s prologue as the Hanse merchant, John Brunham (Margery Kempe’s father) will include a celebrity cameo by Dr Paul Richards – recently given the Freedom of Lynn – on the Father of English Poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer, whom many believe was born in Lynn.
The original lyrics and music – collaborations with Norfolk based composers - for Margery and for A Nice Guy will be published by Poppyland (Cromer) in Doin Different, a book of Gareth Calway’s new ballads from the East of England, for Christmas 2015.
Finally in a departure from strictly Norfolk themes Room at the Hanse is to present two other shows in July “Dr Who Am I and the Zen Trails of Hafiz” at the Bicycle shop in Norwich and “Beat Music. It Was 50 years ago Today” at the Bone Yard Field, Sedgeford
Dr Who Am I is a fantasy trip through hell, heaven and Hendrix, a modern take on Dante’s Inferno/ Purgatorio/ Paradiso. The Sufi mystical poet Hafiz leads a male and female Dr Who to the 7th heaven, with a lot of help from the visionary music of Jimi Hendrix. The two Doctors have to get to the 7th heaven and find the Holy Grail or the Earth will be destroyed.
The simultaneous male and female Who regenerations are played by the author – Gareth Calway - and London actress Taj Kandula. The heavenly soundtrack is provided by ‘Hendrix Next Door’ John William.
Each stage of hell and heaven is evoked in intense Persian-style lyrics spoken by the actors (based on the ghazal, a medieval love poem from Persia). The set is a space rocket – the actors are astro- knights seeking the Holy Grail in inner space declaiming their experience over an ‘Angel Michael- phone’.
Beat Music: 50 years ago today is a revival of a Beatles fairy story – factory girl Cinders meets her Beatle prince - which John William and Gareth Calway toured in 2013 as a broadcast live (with a studio audience of 90 on Folkspot Radio from Gt Massingham. It was featured on Radio 2 Sounds of the 60s and Absolute Radio. This revival marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the film ‘Help’ in 1965.
Cindy and the audience escape from the kitchen sink 60s through the magical music.
Like we said – everything but the kitchen sink this July from Room at the Hanse.