July 20, 2015

Introducing Margery Kempe, The Wife of Lynn’s Tale - Lynn Festival Fringe Production, July 2015

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                                         Margery: caught between holy bellows
in the ear and a womb in hell

by Gareth Calway

The amazing tale of Lynn’s mediaeval mystic and visionary.

Read the script here
Hear the ballad here

Future date for your diary:

Aug 3 2016: at SHARP, Sedgeford's historic Boneyard Field  - The Wife's Tale/ The Visionary's Tale

Premiere - Lynn Minster, July 24 2015. Watch 20 minutes of highlights here

Act One
The Scribe’s Prologue (directed by Gareth Calway)
The Merchant’s Prologue (directed by Gareth Calway)
The Wife’s Tale (directed by Joanna Swan)
Act Two
The Visionary’s Tale (directed by Joanna Swan)

Joanna Swan is a Norfolk-born actress. She trained in physical theatre with Theatre Melange and Greek theatre on Hydra, Greece. Recent professional theatre credits include ‘The Hundred and One Dalmations’ with Baroque Theatre Co, ‘Romeo “or” Juliet’ with The Keeper’s Daughter Co and ‘The Poisoners Pact’ with Stuff of Dreams Theatre Co (returning for a reprise tour this October) http://joannayorke.wix.com/joanna-swan

Gareth Calway is a playwright, poet, novelist and journalist. His debut was playing Minister to Simon Pegg’s Tom Sawyer in 1982. He has taken three one man shows to the Edinburgh fringe and founded Room at the Hanse theatre company in 2012. Doin’ Different (From Boudicca to Nelson) - his book of new East Anglian ballads about the region’s heroes - will be published by Poppyland this Christmas. www.garethcalway.co.uk

David Norfolk retired from the Fire Service in 2008 for a new career in film, television and stage. He has acted in over 120 productions (including James Bond and Midsomer Murders) as a supporting artiste and also in featured and leading roles. www.davidnorfolk.co.uk

(Dr) Paul Richards is a local historian of international repute and a trustee of Marriott’s Warehouse Trust and True’s Yard. He has been elected Mayor of Lynn twice and is a deputy Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk.
Music by Tom Conway

Thanks to Melanie Calway, Alison Gifford, Canon Ivory, Al Pulford, Marriot’s Warehouse Trust, The Custom House and the Lynn News, without whom…

5 minute trailer here   Review here

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

Sound promo for July 2015 Festival fringe shows here

Margery Kempe's Lynn - a guided walk meeting at 2pm on 17/07/2015 outside Lynn Minster's west doors. £5 per person - no booking necessary!

Margery ( 'This creature') and modern American scholarship here

Performed and directed by Joanna Swan

(with prologues by Gareth Calway and David Frost)

All pictures by Al Pulford

Margery Kempe was a fifteenth century Lynn housewife, international traveller and visionary. Though illiterate, she ‘wrote’ the first autobiography in English, dictating it to a scribe. Her father was John Brunham, royal agent, merchant-mayor and MP of Bishop's Lynn, a Hanseatic port at the height of its prosperity and influence. Introduced by her Scribe and her Merchant father, she speaks here isolated on stage and direct to a modern audience: the aspergic cri de couer in all our wildernesses.

Part One
1. The Scribe’s Prologue   read it here   - hear it here

The Scribe in situ at the Minster,
pulpit picture by Al Pulford

2. The Merchant’s Prologue  read it here   - watch it here
3. The Wife’s Tale (begun)  read it here   - watch a 20 minute highlights package here


Part Two
4. The Wife’s Tale (concluded)  read it here   - hear the author read it here

Music composed by Tom Conway.   Hear an extract here

Estimated length
Part One: 45 minutes
Interval 20 minutes
Part Two: 25 minutes
Total 70 minutes + 20 minute interval

A King’s Lynn Fringe Festival Premiere at Lynn Minster (Margery’s own church)
7.30 pm Friday July 24 2015

Accused of the Lollard heresy, Margery’s social status perhaps protected her from the fate that befell her parish priest (William Sawtrey) the first heretic to be burned in England.

See also feature in July edition of Suffolk Norfolk Life p.106-107 and in Lynn News July 3

Hear Sawtrey's Lollard heresy here 
Read a Morality Play of his demise here
Hear the author read the play here.

Lynn News feature on Room at the Hanse's four show summer.

Margery and Julian of Norwich

Tickets for Margery Kempe The Wife of Lynn’s Tale at Lynn Minster (7.30 pm 24 July) from Lynn Custom House, 01553 763044.

July 19, 2015

My EDP Feature on Margery Kempe and the Lollards June 14

100+ views for this post in first two weeks!

Watch a trailer of The Wife of Lynn's Tale here

BBC Eastern Counties radio feature - starts 75 minutes into this programme - here

Sound promo for July 2015 Festival fringe shows here

see also Feature in July 2015 edition of Suffolk Norfolk Life p.106-107 and in Lynn News July 3

Lynn news review of the production here

‘Lollardy’ began in the 14th century with the teachings of John Wycliffe. It made Scripture the sole authority in religion, asserting the right of every man to read and interpret an English Bible for himself. Lollardy attacked all other church authority – pope, bishops, pilgrimages, Sacraments, Eucharist etc – as unscriptural.
A recent BBC programme, ‘The Medieval Mind’ made much of the Lollard challenge to the established might of church and state. It even mentioned the first Lollard martyr, a parish priest burned in 1401 under the new Statute of Heresies. It neglected to mention his name and parish. William Sawtrey, accused while priest of St Margaret’s in Bishop’s Lynn in 1399.
Norfolk was a hotbed of Lollardy in the 14th century. Margery, Sawtrey’s parishioner, was accused of it all her life. And yet when the movement rose in armed revolt in 1414 not one Norfolk Lollard joined.
Perhaps William’s fate silenced them early, though not forever. Lollard women like Hawisia Mone (recanting, at least superficially) and Margery Baxter ( four Sunday floggings walking barefoot around the church) faced the Norwich Heresy Trials of 1428-1431. Others were burned in Lollard’s Pit, at the bottom of Gas Hill. The much less heretical ‘Little Bilney’ was also burned there a century later (as mentioned in TV’s Wolf Hall recently.)

Our morality play ‘A Nice Guy’ dramatizes the bonfire fate of the first Lollard martyr and his dissenting anti-credo:
“I don’t believe in Signs, Rites, Blessings;
In Prayers by the Hour, Priests, Pilgrims, Grails;
Saint-Adoration; Idolatrous bread; leprous blind Latin;
Adoring the Angels; Fat church Patriarchs piling on the shillings;
Confession, Crusades: that ‘what Christ was the Cross is.’ “

Main Feature

Lynn’s Hanseatic past is full of characters. At next month’s Festival fringe ‘Room at the Hanse’ theatre company presents four of the most fascinating.
Margery Kempe (c 1373 – after 1433) a burgess’s wife and mother of fourteen, had visions of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Fellow-visionary Mother Julian of Norwich endorsed her holy tears.
For a historical writer this is troubling. We try to place our characters in their time. These two contemporary Norfolk women gaze beyond it into eternity
Whether Margery was weeping through a mass at St Margaret’s at the slightest mention of Christ’s suffering or waiting to embark from Lynn’s teeming Hanseatic waterfront on pilgrimage to the Holy Land or Rome – or to Holy Prussia (via Walsingham and Norwich) - she had only eyes for God.

In Rome, she saw Jesus (in every handsome man and babe in arms.) On the North Sea in a storm she heard God calming her terror; in the Holy Land she saw the Holy Family, then 13 centuries dead. She helped Martha about the Holy House and held baby Jesus in her arms, discussing the joy of suckling him with a splendidly earthy - Virgin - Mother.

Was she mad? modern reason asks. Was it post-natal depression, post-partum psychosis, something in the granary bread? Or a clever ploy? Her self-appointed visionary status empowered her to hold forth on holy matters regarded by the priests as their patriarchal preserve and to tour a world which even men travelled in companies (or Hansa) to avoid bandits and pirates
‘God’ was a mystery concealed within a Latin credo hidden inside a Sacrament: a not so holy alliance of church and king against everyday Christian understanding. In this context Margery not only spoke to God and Jesus like a lover (or a Lollard), she successfully petitioned the Holy Spirit to turn its orthodox rushing wind ‘like a bellows’ in her right ear to a robin redbreast singing. She also dictated the first autobiography in English, its accuracy – for all her otherworldliness - recently corroborated by an exciting discovery in Gdansk of one of her son’s letters.
A Joan of Arc without the armour, adopting a nun’s white habit even though she was a wife (or, according to the charming mayor of Leicester, ‘a Lollard whore’) she purchased from her husband a vow of chastity; hired and fired scribes; made her own travel arrangements and, at the age of 60, went on one final unlicensed, unescorted pilgrimage.
She was afraid of men attacking her and terrified of sea storms but God, she said, over ruled both her fear and her confessor’s orders. ‘I am above your confessor’ He told her, thereby placing divinely inspired individualism above the church. This is Luther a century early; ‘Women in the church’ seven centuries ago. We celebrate her ‘Do Different’ Norfolk spirit in her beloved St Margaret’s.

Margery’s father, John Brunham, through public service to Lynn and country, made history rather than autobiography. MP twice, mayor 5 times, alderman and benefactor, he organised the arrest of three Prussian ships in Lynn on King Richard II’s orders and raised funds there for a royal embassy to the Grand Master of the Teutonic knights at Marienberg to protest about Prussians attacking English ships in German harbours.
One third of all Lynn damage claims for loss of trade were against Prussia. Prussian embezzlement, extortion, robbery, ship arrest and piracy were proverbial in Lynn.
And yet, you would meet English shoe makers and sailors in Prussian streets as often as German ones here. Brunham’s grandson, Margery’s son, married a Danzig woman and lived there. English merchants took their families to live in Hanse cities and German merchants lived at Hanse House on the South Quay in Lynn, now the only surviving Hanseatic building in England.
Lynn depended on its Hanseatic trading partners – grain out timber and fish in- but our partners were also our bitter rivals. In his Prologue, Brunham calls trade “war by another name”.
Our Wife of Lynn’s Tale brings out a contrast between merchant father and mystical daughter. Brunham’s world is every man for himself all at sea on the lawless waves; Margery’s is redeemed everywhere – even at sea - by Divine Love. Poignantly Brunham has nowhere to go when he dies; his ghost haunts the Lynn waterside, perhaps smiling on Lynn’s exciting and economically promising modern English leadership of the New Hanse.

Who was Margery’s Scribe?
We know that Margery sacked her first scribe and hired another whom she calls ‘The priest who wrote this book’. Who was he?
Perhaps Aleyn of Lynn, a Carmelite friar. Or Robert Spryngolde, a secular cleric, Margery’s parish priest. Both believed her tears were a gift of the Holy Spirit.
In her Book she asks Jesus that her companion in heaven be Spryngolde ‘because I can never repay Master Robert for his goodness to me and his gracious work on my confession’.
Aleyn of Lynn, based at St Mary Magdalen on Lynn’s Gaywood Causeway, was a Cambridge doctor of divinity and author of a number of scholarly works, Aleyn’s support of Margery’s mystical experiences had weight then and does now. Margery tells us her amenuensis was a ‘learned and well-educated man’ steeped in Scipture. Illiterate herself, she would have needed such authority for her numerous bible references. This sounds like Aleyn.
However Master Robert has the additional claim of knowing her intimately (as her confessor). He lived nearer to her and we know that much of the writing took place at her home. Also he had the healthily critical view of her shown by ‘the priest who wrote this book’.
In my Prologue I exploit the doubt over the identity of her scribe to spring a devilish surprise on the audience. Take a pew on July 24th and see!

The Wife of Lynn’s Tale (with Prologues by the Scribe and John Brunham,) written by Gareth Calway and starring Joanna Swan as Margery Kempe, plays Lynn Minster on July 24th 7.30pm. Tickets £9 from Lynn Custom House 01553 763044. Performance approx 90 minutes with interval and bar. A Nice Guy: The Burning of William Sawtrey, a Morality Play packed with good tunes and featuring Julian of Norwich, plays the Hanse House Courtyard on the South Quay, Lynn on the 17th July 4.00pm. Performance 30 minutes. Donations only. www.garethcalway.co.uk, http://www.hansehouse.co.uk, http://www.marriottswarehousetrust.co.uk

For further information read Margery Kempe of Lynn and Medieval England by Margaret Gallyon (The Canterbury Press Norwich ISBN 1-85311-111-2)

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