MURDER IN THE CATHEDRAL
20 March - 31 March
“as vital and relevant as anything in the West End”
In March 2007 Iris theatre presented T. S. Eliot’s classic tale of one man’s fatal struggle for personal and universal grace.
With the World Premiere of new music by John White.
Through the two weeks of ten performances our audience grew from an initial 50 people a night to full houses of about 150 people a night by the end. On Friday 30th March we were honoured with the presence of the Right Rev. Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Canterbury. Many scenes, particularly the end scene of self-justification by the knights of their murder, gained an increased weight and bitter irony due to the presence of a real life Archbishop of Canterbury at a play about the murder of another.
Murder in the Cathedral is often played as if it were a dry theological debate. This, in my view, is a mistake. To interpret Eliot’s work as a measured deliberation on the role of church and state is to ignore the blood, pain, fear and anguish, and ultimately the redemptive triumph of the soul that is at the visceral heart of the play.
I fell in love with this play in Australia on a self-imposed exile between a PhD in theoretical physics and three years at Drama Centre. Eliot’s resurrection as a voice in the theatrical genre is long overdue and his work vastly underrated. Eliot makes verse connect with human flesh – his plays are not poetic recitals, they need a physical expression and interpretation.
Balance is integral to my vision of the play; the cool theology is there, yes, but ultimately it is a character portrayal, a journey, one man’s struggle with himself. Thomas triumphs not with his intellect but his heart and soul. There is no purely intellectual route out of the hell that he finds himself in; Thomas finds the route out of his own mental struggle through grace, the unearned gift from God. In the great tradition of medieval martyrs and mysticism Thomas’ final victory arises through accepting his own doubt, and thereby finding a path to God through the ‘cloud of unknowing’.
Murder in the Cathedral addresses questions that have real resonance in today’s society. What does it mean to be a martyr? What is a good death and how far should we have jurisdiction over our own ends? How can we justify murder in someone else’s name?
The women of the play (who themselves describe their role as to wait) are more than commentators and observers; they represent the ongoing mystery of physical resurrection, through pregnancy and childbirth. They balance the monotheistic concept of masculine control over life and death through spiritual resurrection with the physical resurrection through the pain and blood of childbirth. By their very existence, by their proactive continuation of ordinary life and the perpetuation of the cyclical rhythm of the year they provide the ordinary context for extraordinary events.
The play isn’t a naturalistic piece, it is not interested in historical fact but in emotional truth, it combines the spiritual with the everyday and makes each a part of the other. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that Thomas Becket lived, was a real man, not a literary, metaphorical creation. On the first day of rehearsals we discovered Thomas’ name, first on the list of rectors at St Mary at Hill.
Daniel Winder, Director, March 2007
With sincere and grateful thanks to Robert Smith (Admin, St Marys at Hill), Graham Mundy (Churchwarden St Marys at Hill), Rev’d Simon Grigg (St Paul’s), June Boden-Tebbutt (Churchwarden, St Paul’s), Robert Keen (Caretaker, St Paul’s), The Mercers’ Company, Frankie Cosgrave, Di Trevis, Slideshow Ltd, White Light Ltd, Steve Burson, Mary Gifford Brown, Jim Rosenthal.
Women of Canterbury:
The Housekeeper – Constance Dalrymple
The Mother Figure – Alison Mead
The Pregnant Girl – Chrissy Gallon
1st Priest – Martin Richie
2nd Priest – Michael Twaits
3rd Priest – Francis J Exell
Thomas Becket – Tom Durham
1st Tempter & Messenger – Fiona Watson
1st Knight – Marcus McSorley
2nd Tempter & 2nd Knight – Tom Hunter
3rd Tempter & 3rd Knight – Connor Williams
4th Tempter – Michael Sadler
4th Knight – Jack Merivale
Voice of Saints Day 1 – David Angus
Voice of Saints Day 2 – Alinka Wright
Women of Canterbury – Melinda Gidaly Mayor, Alexandra Holmes,Annekoos Arlman, LIsa Klevemark, Ruth Morris, Sue Whyte, Liv Spencer
Singers – Camille Maalawy, Sophie Meikle, Yukako Nishide, Jo Webber, Carmen Vass, Lisa Turner
Organists – Robert Smith, Colin Grey, Tim Kwan
Executive Producer – Nigel Winder
Director/Producer – Dr. Daniel Winder
Lighting Designer – Ben Polya
Theatre Designer – Laura Shimmen
Musical Director and Composer – John White
Musical Producer – Lisa Turner
Movement Director – Tim Klotz
Assistant Director – Kierrie Wratten
Mask Director – Margaret Caldiron
Assistant Producer – Ruth Brock
2nd Assistant Producer – Emma Hair
Design Assistant – Loretta Lipworth
New Media Public Artist – Eileen Botsford
Projections Assistant – Tanita Ojo-Baptiste
Stage Manager – Heather Rose
Flyer & Poster Design – Peter Clasby
Venue Manager (St Pauls) – Charles Grant