August 27, 2018

Bringing Margery Kempe To Life

See this Lynn News story online here

After centuries of neglect, the 15C author, pilgrim and mystic Margery Kempe of Lynn is bursting out all over. 

She is the subject of a hit play "The Saintliness Of Margery Kempe" showing on Broadway. A Margery Kempe Society was formed at a Conference about her at Oxford University last April. A King's Lynn Civic Society recently honoured her with a handsome engraved bench situated outside her beloved Minster.  And now "Skirting Heresy," an epic production written by Wall Street journalist and playwright Liz Macdonald, scheduled for its premiere in Lynn Minster (her beloved parish church 600 years ago) is in production in her home town.

Margery Kempe's Book, the first autobiography in English, is taught at American Universities and there has always been academic interest on the other side of the pond. But New Yorker Liz Macdonald's interest was kindled by a visit to Lynn and a tour by Lynn historian Dr Paul Richards. She commented with characteristic enthusiasm recently "I love Lynn. Your area is the home of unsung heroes. Let's right this wrong."

The 'Skirting Heresy' project was launched last year by a steering committee led by Lindsey Bavin, including the Lynn heritage groups The True's Yard Fisherfolk Museum and Marriott's Warehouse Trust, who, with civic and other support have tenaciously and successfully applied for grants and crowd-funding to mount a community production in Lynn Minster.

In May, the committee appointed Chris Yarnell a first class freelance director and physical theatre maker based in London. His previous work has won the Les Enfants Terribles Partnership Award and The Stage Award. 

Chris comments "This exciting project was the first I’d ever heard of Margery Kempe and since getting on board I have been amazed not only by her incredible story but also by the town of Kings Lynn.

"The wonderful writing of Elizabeth MacDonald brings her story to life in a visceral, heart-warming and at times hilarious way that I know everyone will enjoy from start to finish. I've also been gifted with the stunning folk music of The Penland Phezants to help underscore the narrative.

"Margery was incredibly outspoken, strong, driven and determined, with the conviction to break the mould of what a woman could be at that time. This was why I was certain from the offset that I wanted to cast a strong local actor as Margery."

Chris declares himself honoured to work with a world class stage manager, Jan Sayer, a native of Lynn North End who also happens to be a former stage manager of Sydney Opera House! 

Returning from a long sojourn in Australia to her home town at just the right time for the project, Jan got wind of something exciting while working part time at Lynn Museum. Visiting True's Yard Museum to view some old photos of her family, she met project manager Lindsey Bavin, got the gen on Margery and offered her much-needed services. She comments "I only knew about Margery from a TV documentary about Julian of Norwich and a book in Lynn Museum.  I pleased to have found her and King's Lynn is lucky to have her - she is amazing."

So, thanks to a New York author, a London director, a Sydney stage manager and a local cast and band, Margery is finally coming home in style this September to her home parish of St Margaret's in Lynn.