July 10, 2015

A Nice Guy: The Burning of William Sawtrey of Lynn.

A Morality Play.

See the opening scenes in rehearsal here

You are the 400+ reader of this post.

"A good man and a faythfull Priest, inflamed wyth zeale of true religion..."

Pics by Zariah Wood-Davies and Baz Allan from the show (July 17 2015)

Lynn News review of show here  Read the full script here

Faith (Sawtrey) and Flesh
Whoopsy daisy!

World, Flesh and Devil


World, Mind and William

Devil and World


The opposition

A young and impressionable parishioner of William's
(Margery Kempe)

and some phone pics from the audience by Tony Rafferty


More fab show pics at end of this blogpost.

BBC Eastern Counties radio interview (75 minutes into the programme) here

EDP news item here

William Sawtrey preview in Lynn News (June 26).

and in July Suffolk Norfolk Life magazine p. 106-107

A line drawing of Sawtrey's execution for heresy. I'll be doing it without the beard.

dress rehearsal; blackbird's eye view

World and Faith seek God's guidance

You are the 300+ person to read this post. The rehearsal pics below show left to right a queenly Vanessa Wood-Davies as the harp-playing Soul; Bob Bones as the hilarious joke bishop; Anto Morra (Morrissey's more talented second cousin) as guitar-toting Flesh kicking against the pricks and Gareth Calway as a provoked William Sawtrey. The bonfire couldn't be lit for health and safety reasons - how would they burn a Lollard today I wonder? - but will be when we can really slip back to 1401.

Part of Room at the Hanse's Four Shows In July - as featured in The Lynn News and in a festival history lesson here

Sound promo for our July Festival shows here

Hear the Soul of William Sawtrey here 

See and hear the inflammatory Flesh of William Sawtrey here

First cast (King’s Lynn Festival Fringe; Hanse House Courtyard, South Quay, King’s Lynn July 17 2015.) premiere.

Pictured in rehearsal by ace photographer Barry Allan

God (Taj Kandula) and Soul (Vanessa Wood-Davies) hover above Julian of Norwich (Julie Bones). Flesh (Anto Morra)'s arm just visible.

William Sawtrey of Lynn (Faith) - 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)

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

This is an extract from the script. Read the full script here
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, Priests, 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.


Flesh: William you’re a Lynn boy
Where’s your Norfolk grit?
Your Mind’s like a frightened girl,
You make me blooming spit.

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.”


Flesh: You want me to kick his face in?

Soul: Be quiet Flesh. Listen to your Soul!

She plays her harp. Flesh quietens. William prays again, entranced.

God appears above...

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.

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 goes to hell.

God: (points at Bishop) Et qui bona egerunt ibunt in vitam eternam; qui vero mala, in ignem eternum.

William: Or, as we say in Bishop’s Lynn (translating) ‘And whoso does good will go to eternal life; but who evil into eternal fire. Matthew 25, 46.’

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!

Author's note: This playlet grew out of my interest in the Book of Margery Kempe (William was her parish priest) and was originally one scene within that larger story.  That story is told in 'Margery Kempe, The Wife of Lynn's Tale' -  performance details and routes to script here

More shots from the premiere-

a devil of a fire to start

we get under way in front of a packed house

Flesh leads William astray

Flesh burns but Soul doesn't

If by this act I can light a flame...

Soul remains serene

 The hot seat

Soul premieres her lovely tunes

Dancing cheek to cheek

Fat church patriarchs piling on the shillings

Getting ready to play God  

God and Mankind (Will) share a pre-show sofa


Alison Gifford (local historian) said...

The outdoor play was a very pleasant interlude. Amusing, sad and thought provoking. All the characters and musicians were very good.

Lynn News Review said...

History came alive in the atmospheric setting of the courtyard of the Hanse House, King's Lynn...the drama matched the backdrop... the debate over (Sawtrey's) doubts (and) apparent heresy .. was acted out in a moving and at times amusing way by a cast of actors and musicians...How refreshing this was!

Adrian Tebbutt said...

If Margery Kempe The Wife of Lynn's Tale at the Minster (July 24 2015) is as good as A Nice Guy: The Burning of William Sawtrey Joan and I went to last week it will be well worth getting a ticket

Kirsty Gauntley said...

I enjoyed seeing the play here very much, what a fantastic use of the space, it all seemed to fit very well!