Monday, May 11, 2015

'King John' by William Shakespeare

11 May 2015

When King John held court in Northampton he is known to have visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – a church built by the Earl of Northampton on his return from the crusades. This 12th century church is still standing and it was a wonderful setting, as we mark the 800th anniversary of John signing the Magna Carta, for the Northampton Royal & Derngate's production of Shakespeare's 'King John', which we saw there last Monday. 'King John' is definitely not one of Shakespeare's best plays, but James Dacre's production (the first Royal & Derngate co-production with Shakespeare's Globe) was a five-star theatrical experience. From the moment we entered the church to see the body of Richard the Lionheart lying in state in the circular sepulchre, surrounded by monks conducting his funeral, we were immersed in the action of the play. The amazing setting, lit almost entirely by candles, with the scent of incense ever-present, combined with original music written by Orlando Gough and Jonathan Fensom's stunning design, created a wonderfully atmospheric performance. It was a privilege to be among the sell-out audience crammed into the wooden church pews, watching the actors on a cross-shaped platform along the nave and transepts. Jo Stone-Fewings was excellent as King John and I was particularly impressed by the two youngest actors: Laurence Belcher (playing Arthur and Henry) demonstrated both compelling acting and a beautiful counter-tenor singing voice; and Aruhan Galieva as Blanche was a great singer making an impressive acting debut. 'King John' finishes its run in Northampton this weekend and then plays at Temple Church in London and Salisbury Cathedral before heading to Shakepeare’s Globe in June. Catch it if you can.

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