A Nice Guy; The Burning of William Sawtrey of Lynn (Morality Play)

A Nice Guy: The Burning of William Sawtrey of Lynn. 
A Morality Play.
First cast (King’s Lynn Festival Fringe; Hanse House Courtyard, South Quay, King’s Lynn July 17 2015.) premiere.
William Sawtrey of Lynn - Gareth Calway
God – Taj Kandula
Flesh - Morra (+ drum, guitar)
Soul – Vanessa Wood-Davies (harp)
Bishop Dispenser – Bob Bones (+ bass)
Mother Julian, Anchoress of Norwich – Julie Bones (+ guitar)
Margery Kempe – Zariah Wood-Davies
The Devil – Baz Allen

William in prison near a bonfire with guy of William on it.

William: I am William Sawtrey, a Lollard of Lynn; 
Priest of this Parish, in Death’s Door Nailed; 
The Bishop Dispenser has bruised me in Limb 
And broken my Spirit for two days in gaol: 
(resisting) I don’t believe in Signs, Rites, Blessings;
In Prayers by the Hour, Priests, Pilgrims, Grails; 
Saint-Adoration; Idolatrous bread; leprous blind Latin; 
Fat church Patriarchs piling on the shillings;
In Confessions, Crusades: that ‘what Christ was the Cross is.’

Enter Bishop Dispenser, furious.

William: I do believe that what we’re for
Is Apostling and preaching and teaching the poor;
In Scripture and Christ above Roman Church Lore;
In plain English speech for our priestly office!
Bishop Dispenser: You no longer have an office. By the Statute of Heresies, 1400. (strips off William’s priestly rank) (vestments, tonsure etc)
William: Through seven steps of degradation
Reduced from magic priest to bare doorman.
(new hope) Did Christ not come this Way? Would Christ not also say:
The peasants got Word, their simple souls sang
‘When Adam delved and Eve span, 
Who was then the gentleman?’
They call peasants (Bishop with him) ‘revolting’. Christ’s blessed I say!

Bishop Dispenser: Tell that to the flames. (sarcastic) Have a nice Pray! (diabolical laugh, exit)

William prays. Flesh appears with drum (fearful heartbeat).

William: (looking at bonfire, tries to pray) Oh God- 

Flesh: Never mind God. You should listen to your Body, son.
(sings with drum)
I bide as a broad bursten-gut aboven on these towers,
Everybody is the better that to mine bidding is bent.
I am Mankind’s fair Flesch, flourished in flowers.
My life is with lusts and liking i-lent.
With tapets of taffeta I timber my towers.
In mirth and in melody my mende is i-ment.
Though I be clay and clod, clapped under clowrys,
Yet would I that my will the world went,
Full true I you behight
I love well my ease
In lusts me to please:
Though sin my soul seize,
I give not a mite. 
(like a bad angel, spoken) Recant, William, and enjoy!
William is about to recant when-
William: I want to but my mind won’t let me ( looks at Julian)
Julian: Never mind Flesh. Listen to your Soul.
Harp plays. Julian speaks over this-
Julian: God said not 'Thou shalt not be tempested, thou shalt not be travailed, thou shalt not be dis-eased'; but he said, 'Thou shalt not be overcome…’ 
Flesh: Ha! Who d’ you think you are, Julian of Norwich? 
Julian: So the World calls me. But I am Pure Mind. 
Flesh: They should lock you away and throw away the key- Oh, they have!
Julian: (sings) The pure Mind freed in Body’s cell,
All shall be well and all shall be well,
Like a mastered guitar that sweetly plays,
What the Pure Mind plucks, the Body obeys.
Pluck from your mind those devils of hell;
In God’s peace and love, all shall be well.
All manner of thing - ring it out like a bell -
All shall be well and all shall be well.
The kind loving mother who tenderly leads
Let her ride your gently-harnessed steed;
The Body’s fair temple of heaven on earth;
By Pure Mind altar-ed, it gives God birth.
All manner of thing - ring it out like a bell -
All shall be well and all shall be well.

Flesh: Like I said, Mother Loonian of blooming Norwich! 
(reasonable) Recant William. I only want to live.

Julian: Fire won’t kill us. We only live to love.

Flesh and Julian sing a duet/duel. 

They buried her alive in here,
The dead they’ll never raise
The maid a parish came to love,
A movement came to praise.

No motion has she now, her course
Is inward, grave and still;
The church behind her every move,
The Tomb her anchored will.

‘’So, Julie, can I ask-’ A hush.
‘I’m not a girl,’ she sighs.
‘You after some big bishopric?’
‘I need no name that dies.’

‘I’m out of here if that’s your tale,
My column talks the town.
I’ll lose my pitch, my job, my mind,
I’ve got to nail this down.’

‘O frightened child, just run to Him,’
I’m not like you – you’re dead!
‘Dead to the world yet still attached,
All shall be well,’ she said.

‘He showed into my mind a nut.’
I’m seeing one, I grin.
‘In it we seek its maker, rest
Where there no rest is in.’

‘You saw Eternity last May
Through Death’s wedged-open door?’
‘This crucifix - like rain from eaves,
I saw its hot blood pour.’

‘I saw in sixteen shewings how
We must – we can - abide
Dis-ease, travail and storm, for we’re
The thorn in God’s soft side.

‘Which side is that?’ ‘His female side’
‘The Trinity has another?’
‘Christ bears us all upon His breast,
His wound’s our womb and mother.

‘O frightened child, just run to him,’
I’m not like you – you’re dead!
‘Dead to the world yet still attached,
All shall be well,’ she said.

Some duet
Bishop Dispenser: (missing the point) A model of subdued Norfolk womanhood! 
William: Ha my young parishioner Margery Kempe already has a clearer vision of Julian’s Divine Revolution than you, Bishop! If you spent a bit less time adoring angels and a bit more time adoring mankind; a bit less time b-
Bishop Dispensor slaps William’s cheek
Bishop Dispensor: Enough of your cheek
William – after a brief attempt to turn his other cheek- raises fists
Flesh: I feel a beef coming on.
Bishop: Not another Lollard.
Flesh: More a Wellard. A hot blooded brawn-again Bollard.
(sings) 
William you’re a Lynn boy
Where’s your Norfolk grit?
Your Mind’s like a frightened girl,
You make me want to spit.

This is Boudicca’s country,
Stand your ground:
The battered woman
Who would not lie down!

Where’s your knuckle?
Your Biblical kicks
Against the odds,
Against the pricks!?  

Flex neck! I’ve got the nerve,
Meat balls! I’m gonna put you down!
Flesh pecs! I got the guts, 
Pump blood! I’ll blow you out of town!(cazoo?)
Flesh kicks the wall of Julian’s cell with his clown shoes then hops about, groaning.
Bishop: See what happens when you read Acts, 26 chapter 14 without Church guidance?
William: Not if we read it context. (preaching with Bible, like the proto-Wesley he is). “I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest.” That’s the moment Saul of Tarsus stops being  the scourge of the Early Church and becomes St Paul, Christ’s evangelist to the gentiles. Now the Bishop Dispenser will tell you I’m Saul kicking against the pricks. But verily I say unto you, the sandal’s on the other foot. I’m Paul. The Church is Saul. 
Bishop Dispenser: We’re Paul. (opens arms)The arms of Holy Mother Church.
William: An Old Boys’ cell of women-hating clerks. 
Bishop Dispenser: The Vicar of Christ. God on Earth. 
William: The self-serving, self-conserving World. 
Bishop: And you’re Unrest and Revolution.
William: You’re the Institution. The Corrupted System. 
Bishop: God’s holy office, temple, crown.
William And Jesus turned you upside down.
Bishop: You’re not Him! We codify His Word for all.
William: That’s why you’ve grounded me like the Romans did St Paul!
Bishop Dispenser: Because you put a wolf’s I at the head of your flock; 
Your ego in place of Church, Pope and God.
Pause
William: (desperate) Oh God, is he right?
Flesh: You want me to kick his face in?
Soul: No. Listen to your Soul!
She plays Flesh quietens on her harp. William prays again, entranced. God appears above.
William and Bishop Dispensor exchange an astonished look. God’s a woman.
God: Ego occidam et vivificabo, percuiam et sanabo, et nemo est qui de manu mea possit eruere. 
William: (indicates audience) My Lord, these are simple Bishop’s Lynn folk. They have not the Latin. May they hear you in plain English?
God: Sorry. 
Harp plays. 
God: ‘King, kaiser, knight and champion,
Pope, patriarch, priest and prelate in peace,
Duke doughtiest in deed, by dale and by down,
Little and mickle. The more and the less,
All the states of the world is at my renown;
To me shall they give accompt at my dyne dais.
When Michael his horn bloweth at my dread doom (horn)
The count of their conscience shall putten them in press
And yield a reckoning
Of their space how they have spent,
And of their true talent
At my great judgement
An answer shall me bring.’ 
William: (to all) You see if God can give it to you straight, why does the bishop have to hide it in Latin.  (To God) May I ask you something man to man.
God: (a woman) Man?
William: Sorry – God. 
Word made Flesh, true bread he makes
By his Word, his Flesh to be,
Wine his blood which whoso takes
Must from Fleshly thoughts be free,
Faith alone, which sight forsakes
Shows true hearts the mystery.
Aquinas. Not Jesus. The Latin snakes
Round heart and mind so beautifully.
But Bible Jesus simply breaks
The bread and says ‘Eat this
In remembrance – remembrance – of me.
Drink this wine, you who love me,
As forgiving blood.’ By that Blood above me
Do I trust a Saint’s gilded Word. Or His?
God: speaks in Urdu or Hindi or Persian or Dari.
William: My Lord?
The harp tinkles whenever God speaks till play ends.
God: متاسف Moteassef hastam ‘Sori’. (translates) I am on both sides of the bread. And also beyond both sides. Just as I am Man, Woman, East, West, Everything. And also beyond Everything. I made you in my own Image but you all keep trying to re-make Me in yours. 
William: Sorry.                                                Bishop: Sorry.
God: But yes, William, you were right. Creed, ritual, dogma, the conventional ideas of heaven and hell and sin, are perversions of the truth, and confuse and bewilder rather than clarify and inspire.  The spiritual life is something to be lived, not talked about. It – and it alone – will produce the peace and love and harmony which we seek to establish as the constant of our lives. The root of all our difficulties, individual and social, is self-interest. All you need is Love.
All cast led by William: (sing and play) Word…word… word….Word…word…word. Word…word… word. 
A good shepherd doesn’t need a golden crook.
There’s no pope or Latin credo in the Book.
The church was made by man and man is fallen and deceived.
It’s easy. 
There’s nothing you can know but what’s in here.
God’s chosen twelve, they heard it loud and clear.
Hear the gospel in your heart, the rest is devils in your ear.
It’s easy.
All you need’s the Word
All you need’s the Word,
All you need’s the Bible.
The Bible’s is all you need!
Young Margery: (given page of Bible) I can’t read it!
Bishop Dispenser tears page away and lights bonfire with it.
Bishop Dispenser: Blasphemy! 
Bonfire burns. Flesh drums, screams and protests:
Soul: Be quiet, Flesh.
Harp plays.
William: (inspired) If by this act I can light a flame-
Bishop Dispenser:‘If’…
William: Feed the wax of Flesh to burn
Love’s Name
In the unlettered lives of Jesus’s people,
The ground down to earth, the poor, meek and faithful: 
The pain of Flesh passing is well worth the candle.
It’s a heaven to die for!
Exit Flesh. ( Bob) Wait for the music to finish
Bishop Dispenser: Or a Morning Star!
William: What does he mean?
God: You’re now The Morning Star of the English Reformation; the Lucifer of Dissolution and Dissent; of Centuries of Holy War; of the Beauty of Holiness trampled under cloven hoofs; of Mother Church splintered like a stained-glass window.
G wait for the harp flourish
William: But that’s not what I meant. I burned to change the world for Love! For God!
A Judgement.
God: Yes. (to Bishop) And you, Bishop Dispenser. Why did you?
Bishop: I burned him for - a World to continue.
As harp plays. ‘Farewell’ Vanessa’s new version
William:    They told me that the bread became
Christ’s Body not His Ghost.
I said a priest’s no conjurer
That did it: I was toast.

They tortured me, ‘recant
Your reasoning, or roast!’
I said ‘I cannot bear your Cross.’
That did it: I was toast.

They told me that Richeldis saw
Our Lady not a ghost.
I said ‘chalk eggs to Falsingham!’
That did it: I was toast.

They said a Roman prayer or Mass
Would keep me in my post
I said ‘An English sermon’s best.’
That did it: I was toast.

‘Our Sacraments are spirit gold,’
The brassy bishops boast
I - ‘all that gilders isn’t God!’
That did it: I was toast.

They Credo-bashed, defrocked and lashed
My body to its post.
I answered them with Balaam’s ass.
That did it: I was toast.

They told me that the bread became
The hostage not the host.
I said ‘Man needs the bread as well.’
That did it: I was toast.

They burn me like a fallen Eve,
A holy without smoke,
I climb up like a morning star,
The dreamer’s gleam of hope.

Scene 7. William joins God in the window (above) Bishop Dispenser tries to climb up.
God: Welcome, brighter than blossom on a briar,
My son dear. Come forth and stand ye with me. (to Bishop Dispenser) You go to hell. 
Bishop Dispenser: Quot (What).
God: (points at Bishop, speaking to him in his own laguage) Et qui bona egerunt ibunt in vitam eternam; qui vero mala, in ignem eternum.
Bishop Dispenser goes to hell.
William: Or, as we say in Bishop’s Lynn (translating) ‘And whoso does good will live for ever but who evil into a permanent version of what the bishop gave me there ( points at fire)[1]
God: And they that well do in this world here, wealth shall awake;
In heaven they shall be heyned in bounty and bliss.
And they that evil do, they shall to hell lake
In bitter bales to be burnt: my judgement it is.
My heavenly powers will then make them quake:
There is no wight in the world that may scape this.
All men example hereat may take
To maintain the god and menden their miss.
Thus endeth our games.
To save you from sinning,
Ever at the beginning
Think on your last ending.
(indicates Bishop Dispenser)
Don’t end up in flames!

(to Bishop Dispenser) As a punishment, you can take the collection from the audience of nothing less than five pounds from each person. Do you accept this Purgatory?

Bishop Dispenser: Yes, for my sins. (collects)

God: Then I forgive you. 






[1]Matthew 25, 46.

No comments: