November 28, 2013

Tom and Harry (the show)



Read my EDP Weekend feature on Anne Boleyn and Blickling Hall here 


by Gareth Calway

with a second half of historical poems and monologues.

In May 1536, a Norfolk-bred Queen of England was beheaded for treason... She lost her heart to one man and her head to another.

starring Steve Knowles - East Enders, The Bill, Casualty, London’s Burning, Prime Suspect - as King Henry VIII

Gareth Calway - ‘a triumph of narration and vocal colour’ Radio reviews; ‘wholesome, strong and to my tastes," (Ted Hughes) - as Sir Thomas Wyatt.

Poster sponsored by Witley Press, Hunstanton.

Radio Norfolk interview about the play and tour here,

Three hours and 7 minutes in

Match reports:
MAY 3. Première at the Gin Trap Inn, Ringstead, 8 pm Ticket info 01485 571828 £7.50 includes glass of wine

The tour kicks off in 'the Room' at the Gin and what with Jane and Brian of Folkspot recording it, a decent sized audience and a fair amount of props, amps and cameras whirring, it was a bit cosy. An audient (I won't embarrass Dave Cooper by naming him) joined the show as I has half way into my second speech, establishing a tradition and causing a slight irregularity in the sonnet's iambic pentametre Steve terrified me with the 'evening with King Henry' Tudor gangster performance of the speeches - and I wrote them - so God knows how the front row felt.

May 24 The Village Hall, Elsing (near Dereham)£7.50 Bar.

This was the gig of the tour: a storming Tom and Harry with 51 people watching followed by a 7 Losers honed and wired to perfection, selection, sequencing and intros included. I took the shine off the new ball and knocked forty plus and then Steve swung the mighty willow through the dewy air and smacked an awesome century off a dozen overs.


The village hall at Elsing was full for the performance of 'Tom and Harry' (a clever play on the expression 'every Tom, Dick and Harry') common enough names even today but this Tom and Harry were none other than Sir Thomas Wyatt and King Henry VIII. The play focused on the tempestuous time in Henry's reign when he was trying to trump up charges to rid himself of his second wife, Anne Boleyn, and accused Wyatt, amongst others, of being her lover. The evidence for this accusation is thin, based mostly on Wyatt's love poems (which weren't published in his lifetime) but the fact that Wyatt survived and Anne's other supposed lovers were executed suggests that he either wasn't as easy to frame as the others or could prove his innocence.

Playwright Gareth Calway was a very genial 'Tom', narrating Wyatt's version of events in period costume without creating the dramatic fiction that he actually was Wyatt. This friendly collusion with the audience created an intimacy which encouraged the audience to join in and Calway handled these interpolations with aplomb. He also read extracts of Wyatt's poems, which could be interpreted as having been written for or about Anne and read them extremely well – it's hard to read poetry out loud but Calway could have given a master-class in it.

Hear these poems and Anne's dialogue with them here

Henry himself (a charismatic Steve Knowles) came on stage half way through to give his own interpretation of the same events and was a powerful and mesmeric presence, despite wearing what looked like a lady's slip! He very convincingly portrayed a king at once menacing and vulnerable, credulous and fatalistic. Henry's decidedly dodgy self-justification never became whiny thanks to Knowles’ dominant stage presence and excellent almost challenging eye-contact with the audience – he maintained the fiction of actually being Henry and no-one in the audience dared join in this time!

It was a shame that Anne was only present as audio although this disembodied voice did help with the impression that she was a ghost and did give her the opportunity to add a third dimension to this tragic story.

The second half was presented by Calway as himself in modern dress (the ubiquitous jeans and teeshirt) and was a mixture of engaging romps through notable 'failures' of history and his own very evocative poetry, which, again, he performed extremely well. The contenders for biggest 'failure' in history ranged from poor King Ethelred the Unready to English football and the audience was invited to vote on which was the biggest 'failure'.

Altogether a diverse and most interesting evening's entertainment with excellent actors and light musical accompaniment – if you get a chance to see this production, I would highly recommend it.

Dereham Times 6/6/13

Review by Gretel Hallett following the performance on Friday 24th May 2013.

July 24: The Boneyard Field, SHARP, Sedgeford 8 pm Ticket (£12) and info 01485 571828 and SHARP 07804885010. Includes a Tudor banquet:

Hunks of Bread (v)
Roasted Chicken and pork
Salat (Herb Salad) (v)
Ember Day Tart (v)
Mince Pies
Pease Pottage (v)
Spinach Tart (v)
Stuffed Eggs (v)
Selection of Cheeses

Lechemeat (Date and Ginger Sweetmeat) (v)
Marigold Tart (v)
Knotted Biscuits (v)
Twelfth Night Ginger Bread (v)
Pety Pernautes (v)

Red and White Wine
Mulled Cider
Apple Juice

Link to Lynn News story here:

I did my opener's bit and Steve once again smacked his century off very different bowling in a very different stadium. My second innings in 7 Great Losers - again a little delayed - included a tribute to our British Wimbledon champion Andy Murray and was palpably enjoyed by all. One of the great summer evenings.

Review and pictures here:

The second half for these first three shows was:


Seven Great Losers of British History written and performed by Gareth Calway


Tom and Harry at Marriott's Warehouse, South Quay, King's Lynn, Nov 28 

with a new amplification of Anne's voice, on a slightly ghostly setting.

And a new Part 2 - It All Comes Out In The Wash, dramatic poems with a Norfolk connection written and performed by Gareth Calway

Job done in terms of establishing us in this new venue. The vote of thanks from Mariott's Warehouse Chair Dr Paul Richards approvingly quoted the line about modern England being born then even though a surviving male heir for Henry Tudor wasn't. I for one was sorry this show ended after four gigs but they were four great nights and it was a privilege to be in a two hander with Mr Knowles.


jane@folkspot said...

It was a great evening Gareth and yes, Steve was quite scary as Henry, up close and personal. Folkspot Radio

Brian Clayton said...

Great evening, thank you.
As always you have a way of capturing the attention of someone (me) who is not usually interested in our history.

I thoroughly recommend this production to everyone.

Posy Maynard said...

Really enjoyed the performance last Friday,it's good to see something live!


Tim Chipping, Elsing show promoter said...

Tom and Harry was a bit of a first for Elsing Village Hall. I don't think we've had a performance of this type staged here before and it was certainly very well received going by the compliments people offered afterwards on their way out. Thanks Gareth and Steve for a very entertaining night.

Gretel Hallett said...

Playwright Gareth Calway was a very genial 'Tom', narrating Wyatt's version of events in period costume ... hard to read poetry out loud but Calway could have given a master-class in it.

Henry himself (a charismatic Steve Knowles) portrayed a king at once menacing and vulnerable, credulous and fatalistic...a dominant stage

Altogether a diverse and most interesting evening's entertainment – if you get a chance to see this production, I would highly recommend it

SHARP (Sedgeford Historical Archaeological Research Project) said...

made us think and laugh.

Overall, we give the performance five stars!

SHARP Web blog (Sedgeford Historical Archaeological Research Project)

Lloyd Mills said...

An evening spent in a field - those aromas took me back to when I was a digger: the grass in the tent, the different foods cooking and wafting on the air, the elsan blue. On the pallet stage the presence and authority of Steve Knowles as King Harry. And Gareth Calway, lurking as Tom Wyatt. A seriously overthetop serving of Tudor grub (an astonishing achievement by a woman who's name I did not catch). All followed up by Gareth's solo exploration of the Great British Loser which goes down as a triumphant success. In the midst of it all the chance to meet up again with happy and content Bob Bones. An excellent way to spend the evening if you get the chance - and to round it off I drove past Blickling Hall in the dark... now there would be a venue for Tom and Harry.