Happy Easter

April 16, 2017

Christians often get a raw deal on social media, at least in my networks. Some folk who’ll go to great lengths to justify Daesh murderers and nonces, or to explain that such extremists have got nothing to do with Islam, are happy to judge Christianity by the actions of murderers, nonces and Bible-belt nutjobs. Others will wish the world Happy Eid or Diwali, whilst revisioning Easter as a corruption of Ostara or even Inanna. The persecution of Christian minorities in many countries passes almost unnoticed and unmourned.

Perhaps it’s understandable, given that many us, especially those as old as Crow, were subjected to varying degrees of Christian indoctrination, that we should project our shadow-selves onto their external representation. I rejected Christianity when I was 15, appalled by its hypocrisy, dogmatism, intolerance and all the myriad abuses perpetuated in the name of Christ.

Over the next 50-odd years – informed by reading Blake and the Gnostics, the meeting of Christians and Pagans in the work at Crossbones, my personal experiences of Divine Love and participation in Santo Daime and other syncretic Christo-animist traditions – my attitude became more nuanced. I learned to read the Bible – not as absolute or literal, but as poetic truth – and to see that the heart of Christ’s teaching is love, compassion, forgiveness and ‘doing unto others’ as you’d wish to be done by them.

The conservative social attitudes of the church – to gay priests and women – are slowly changing, and even its theology is not so set in stone. When The Southwark Mysteries was performed in Southwark Cathedral on Easter Sunday 2000, many fundamentalists were outraged and even the Dean was concerned by its references to God as feminine. When the play was revived in 2010, no-one even remarked on this.

I’ve been blessed to meet many Christians who, without show or fuss, have devoted themselves to healing broken lives and to making this world a better place. You can even have a good laugh with some of them!



Mary Magdalene ‘supposing him to be the gardener…’


The Wayfarer’s Boon

March 8, 2017


for Wendy Houstoun


may you never lay your head
down on a pillow in the Premier
Inn with some body loudly
snoring in the adjacent bed
room; and may you

never be beset on trains
by some body crunching
crisps and humus and pitta
bread or sucking Kit
Kats in the seat behind you; and

may you never lose your weirdness even
when the ways of wonder peter out in deserts
industrial parks and dead lands and may you ever be firm
in your force in the missing skin that now and then
lets too much of this mad world seep in.


when I was young and
foolish I hitch-hiked through France
and Italy, thrice, Rome, Sicily and on

my third trip by a campfire I traded
traveller’s tales with an older American
freak who told me

about this anthropologist who’d
gone to Mexico and eaten mushrooms
and peyote and had his map his

model of reality taken apart and put
back together in another dimension and so
the anthropologist becomes a brujo, a sorcerer

only by when I was older if not much
wiser it seemed that maybe Carlos Castaneda
had dreamed it all up in the UCLA library and never

gone to the desert with his Yaqui maestro brujo
Don Juan and libraries world-wide were discreetly
moving his books from the ‘Anthropology’ to the Fiction shelves


real or imagined it seemed to me that fact or
fiction Don Juan had revealed some mighty truths
in a racy language we could all get; like he said: all paths

lead nowhere, but some are paths with heart and when
you walk a path with heart, you know it and get it and it makes
you strong and fearless and free.

May it.


some call me
a shaman, a magician; once
I called myself one, my John Crow

started out a joke, a prank, a literary
persona, the shaman
as showman; then

people believed me and before
I knew it I’d become the character I thought
to create, and had to walk the weird walk;

and here
I am, still walking the long and lonely road under fathomless
stars and sometimes it feels like a curse and a burden – and: ‘did I choose or

was I chosen?’ and do I walk
only to conjure meaning where meaning
is there none – and on a good night, a blessing

and a boon. Open roads
for the wayfarer; no destination but laughter
and stories; songs by campfires

meetings with kindred, weird
walkers – and moon and stars to guide her
on her way.


Stop The Clock – it’s a new age?

May 12, 2010

For those of you missing the live daily 100daysofsouthwarkmysteries blog, CLICK HERE NOW to switch channels and tune into Mr  Crowys Diary of The Restoration


Day Zero

April 30, 2010

And we’re still here, still clearing up after the Apocalypse, but hey…

Apart from our rave review in The Times (see yesterNoDayUpDayte) and today (30 April 2010)’s even more effusive praise for our “staggering achievement” in the South London Press, we have the following review from Steve Ash dated 26 April 2010: “…

On April 22-24 John Constable’s Southwark Mysteries were resurrected in Southwark’s great Cathedral for the first time in ten years, their first performance being on Easter Sunday, 23rd April 2000. Having seen the original back then I was keen to experience the play in its revived form, keen in fact to the point of hobbling there on an aggravated, torn knee cartilage, which at least heightened my empathy for the sick and crippled, who feature strongly in the play as the Southwark’s suffering populus.

The Mysteries in their revived form were enhanced by the addition of core of professional actors, who greatly heightened the drama of the play, giving it a very different feel to the playful bawdiness I remembered from the talented amateur cast of the original. The prize for best actor in this must surely go to Daniel Copeland’s clown faced Satan, whose arrogance and cynical presence was the perfect antipole to that other powerful performance from Merryn Owen, as a manic yet deeply compassionate Jesus Christ. The interplay between these two was one of the most impressive theatrical exchanges I’ve seen in a long while. Copeland was the perfect Satan, an actor used to playing horned trouble makers, following his memorable role as the very different Pan, in the Bubble Theatre’s Crock of Gold a few years back. While Owen made a convincing grass-roots Jesus, whose passion often transgressed the script prepared for him by his frequent companion a suited St Peter. A special mention must also go to the charismatic acting of Charlie Folorunsho, who took the role of the Shaman John Crow back to its Caribbean roots, as well as Michelle Watson’s now classic portrayal of the Goose. These four comprised the central dynamic forces of the play, with the crucial support of the other core actors, particular its narrators, waterman John Taylor and Moll Cutpurse, played by Kai Simmons and Caroline Garland. The rest of the cast, all community players, were in no way put into the shade by the professionals however, and added their own natural charm to the play, as did in their own way the child extras recruited from local schools to play the hosts of angels and solders .

The play seemed more condensed ten years on but still followed the basic story line I remembered from the previous performance and book. A story of reconciliation and reunification on multiple levels, including the central theme of the re-inclusion of the divine feminine and the reconciliation of spirit and the flesh, manifest in the local form of the Magdalene Whore, known as the Goose (a bird once sacred to Aphrodite, whose was central to Roman Southwark in Isian form). Her pious persecutor and flawed defender being the archetypal puritan Oliver Cromwell and the Bishop of Winchester respectively, who also featured strongly in the reconciliation. The latter, along with St Thomas a Beckett, being the original licenser of the legalised prostitutes in the Medieval Liberty of Southwark (who despite claiming the Churches cut from their earnings refused them burial on anything but unhallowed ground. Later disturbed by the digging of the Jubilee line extension, and allegedly releasing the spirit of the Goose to become Shaman John Crow’s muse, in a modern replay of the Legend of Simon Magus and Helena). Cromwell, played by the talented professional Oliver Langdon, was the perfect manifestation of fundamentalist Xtianity, and along with a conservative St Peter aptly represented the failings of the Church (with even the benign Bishop himself admitting the culpability of clerics in more recently highlighted but traditionally abusive ‘sins of the flesh’). All of whom, including the Goose and Crow, and some surprise walk on characters, such as Judas Iscariot and that notorious heretic William Shakespeare (or Will Shagspur as he was refered to), were variously confronted by a fiery Jesus, but eventually forgiven, or exalted by him as wronged outcasts, like the Goose herself. In the grand finale of the play, the Harrowing of Hell, the rebel Jesus with his angels forgives and liberates them all from the clutches of Satan, and his horde of demons, in traditional fashion, thus further revealing the central message of the play, of an all encompassing reconciliation, healing and reunification. The profoundest form of which was the ending of ‘debt of sin’, and consequent human suffering and sickness, through the self sacrifice of Jesus and subsequent reconciliation of the entirety of Mankind and God and the World.

The theology behind the Southwark Mysteries still puzzles some people, but the key to it all is clearly healing and unification. John is quite subtle in his approach here too, I’ve always thought it strange that he makes redemption through the suffering of Christ such an important aspect of the play. As myself as many others find this belief archaic, in any interpretation, and if anything proof of the imperfection, if not sheer monstrousness, of the Christian God (a role John takes himself in the play). But we must not forget the centrality of this myth to Christians and John’s all inclusive audience. There is ample evidence of Gnosticism in the play too, and here Jehovah and Satan are considered as names of the same evil World Ruler, with Christ an emanation of a higher Godhead, sent to anull the ‘Curse of Jehovah’. However the Mysteries, while not the ‘York Cycle’, as John makes very clear, still contain much orthodox material, not least the presence of both an very orthodox God and Satan in opposition, even if Satan is referred to as ‘God’s shadow’ and ‘not as black as he is painted’. I think the solution to this riddle is that John, like his alter ego John Crow, is a shaman – artist not a preacher, he cleverly weaves a variety of mythologies together (even Osiris and Isis make an appearance), allowing an ambiguity in which the audience can create their own meaning, thus unifying the audience as well. This stance is doubly emphasised by the centrality of John Crow, the ambiguous Shaman, who seems to occupy the ‘third way’ between Satan and Christ, indicating an issue in their relationship. Though here lay my only misgivings with the story, that Satan is finally cast into the pit in the final Apocalyptic scene and never enters the reunification, presumably leaving ‘God’ unhealed. But perhaps there is room for a sequel here! On the whole the work is a masterpiece relativised mythology allowing each person to find their current truth and perhaps even hold them up to scrutiny.

As a sheer spectacle the play was stunning and used the full space of the Cathedral to great effect, with a variety of dramatic scenes and surreal characters emerging from all directions. The make up and costumes selected were perfect, particularly of the denizens of Hell who looked extremely convincing, and great credit to the designer Annie Kelley who created many of them (and her industrious seamstress and seamstress Sarah Weightman). A great triumph all round I’d say.”


Thanks, Steve, great to read a review from someone who knows something about the inside hermetic back-story! Satan is cast into his own pit as ‘The Accuser’ – not to be confused with the horned god of fertility! 😉

My considered response to your issues with the crucifixion follows:


St John of the Crow’s letter to the Pagans 😉

On the redemptive suffering of Christ.

The sacrifice of a GodMan to effect changes in the fabric of reality is prefigured in pagan mythology from Odin to Osiris. This perilous journey – through death to rebirth – reflects, embodies, transcends and transfigures the existential human condition of suffering, loss and death. It is the journey of the shaman in quest of creative transformation – returning with songs and stories which act as a medium for healing and renewal of individuals and the tribe.

To these animist hunter-gatherers, all of the worlds are alive with spirit(s). Such cultures use time-honoured techniques, including work with power plant teachers, to access distinct realms and manifestations of consciousness. This direct experience of the Divine Spirit – or, if you prefer a more secular definition, “that what is so manifestly incomparably greater than anything we can possibly comprehend that all we can do is fall down in fucking awe and wonder!” –  is not easily assimilated into the categories of everyday language – which is why, when it comes to the Spirit World,  poetry and song rule.

An urban shaman like John Crow – or a Dionysian adept like Steve Ash – might set themselves in this loosely “pagan” tradition, although I imagine they would both recognise that they also embody transgressive hermetic magical practices which have co-existed for centuries with the mechanistic world-view of the dominant Western “tribe”.

The establishment of the city state inevitably created tensions between the desire for order, safety and security and the increasingly subversive quest for self-annihilation in the ecstatic dance. Euripides The Bacchae (written c. 400 BCE) is a powerful testament to how problematic the cult of Dionysos had become to pagan Greece.

All across the pagan world, throughout the two millennia BCE we find evidence of a similar malaise, the sense of a rift between these transpersonal intimations of immortality – of experiential access to the Divine World, the dreamtime of the gods, goddesses, elementals, heroes and heraes – and the everyday world in which mere mortals struggle and suffer and die. In late classical Greek mythology, the Gods have taken on human characteristics and foibles yet remain essentially aloof and indifferent to humankind’s fate. True, many mortals continue to have intimate relations with the Gods – but note that consensual sex is NOT a feature of Zeus’ relations with mortal women*.

* mid-note: I once read a convincing argument (though I can’t recall the author, Elaine Pagels perhaps) that Christianity’s obsession with sexual “sin”, and its subsequent elevation of chastity, hints at a brutal historical footnote. Many early converts to Christianity were Roman slaves who had been sexually abused, often as children, by their pagan masters. Imperial, institutional paganism had a lot in common with the imperial, institutional Christianity that superseded it.

This dualistic sense of a profound alienation – a forced rupture and separation between the Divine and the Human – features in many spiritual traditions in this time of social and cultural ferment. Buddhism served to ground the teeming Hindu pantheon in the human mind that houses them (“All Deities reside in the Human breast” – Blake). Yet even the Buddha’s supreme act of self-transcendence and liberation is itself self-ish when compared to the vow of the Bodhisattva, who refuses to enter Nirvana, promising to return again and again, aeon after aeon, performing compassionate works until every sentient being, even the merest ant, is set free from suffering.


It seems to me that something new is happening here – in these last four thousand odd years of Humankind’s spiritual awakening. What’s happening is nothing less than the direct intervention of “God” – here posited, though unconfined by any definition I could offer, unconfigured as any God that’s more than just another entity in the Field must surely be, as the highest manifestation of consciousness, the All in the One, the Everything in the No Thing  – in the affairs of its own all-too-HuMan confined, divided, disease and death-riddled, scattered sparks.

The Mysteries of Isis and Osiris are revealed relatively late in the development of the Egyptian world view and seem to embody a radical departure from a static and hierarchical religious establishment. Their myth embodies all the elements of the death and rebirth of the GodMan, giving due regard to the healing, transforming powers of the shape-shifting female “sakti” energies*.

* The same motif recurs in Mary Magdalene’s receiving the body of Christ and then witnessing his resurrection (even Paul recognises her as the ‘Apostle of the Apostles”). Like Christ, Osiris makes the perilous journey through death to rebirth, as an EXEMPLAR. He goes before to open and clear the pathways for us to walk the walk.

The appearance of the obscure healer Jeshua, aka Jesus aka The Nazarene, has to be seen in the context of the crises in late Judeo-paganism. For centuries Yahweh had not only been asserting His right, as a Jealous God, to demand absolute allegiance and renunciation of all other manifestations of Divinity – He was also threatening, in the voices of his zealous Prophets, to make an impending uh… definitive intervention.

As so often happens at a time when a culture is undergoing a radical paradigm shift, there is a contrary fundamentalist backlash, a desire for certainty and belief in some absolute truth. The true battle, within – to open our minds to comprehend and respond to the challenge – is projected without, on the short-comings of others, the neighbour’s sin. In the febrile imaginations of these recently urbanised desert tribes, an apocalypse was at hand in which God would descend to judge Israel, aka HuManIty, for being gay or eating shellfish, for consorting with prostitutes or maybe allowing so much as the shadow of a leper to ritually pollute you.

We don’t know where Our Man stood on the King Prawns issue. I believe one of the more obscure Gnostic Gospels has him appearing to swing both ways. His friendship with Daughters of the Light is pretty much orthodox, our friend of the publican and sinner. O yes, and he washes lepers – and probably learns a thing or two from talking to them.

Then, the great scandal and shock to the psyche of the early Christian social revolutionary, their charismatic leader gets crucified like a common criminal.  It’s easy to explain how the cult of the resurrection quickly gained purchase in such grief-stricken disorientated souls. Yet to simply dismiss it as that, in some smug Dawkwinian reductionist synopsis, is to miss to power and the glory – not to mention the poetry and the ultimate liberation revealed at the heart of the myth.

Because it’s precisely in this senseless, stupid act – by which the quote Son of God unquote comes not to judge his puny brother and sister but to take Judgement on himself.

* The sacrifice of the Son to appease the wrath of the Father IS of course an appalling business. In The Southwark Mysteries ‘God the Father’ is portrayed gnostically, as the monstrous – self-limited and limiting – usurper of Divine Humanity… * in the 2010 Southwark Cathedral production, the part of God was brazenly played by the author 😉

Moré than that, Jesus, at least as revealed to the Goose and John Crow in The Southwark Mysteries as “the outcast god”, allows Them (Us) to sacrifice Him, precisely because he has crossed into the transpersonal realm of the Divine, beyond Him, Them (Us) – though retaining his intimate, visceral identification with the Human Drama right through to his final despairing: “My God! Why have you forsaken me!”

The tendency of Christians since Roman times to fixate on the agony of the crucifixion and a literal misinterpretation of the resurrection of the physical body has deformed and distorted Christ’s teaching beyond recognition, underpinning the abuses practiced in his name by the Roman Catholic and other nominally ‘Christian’ churches.

If a religious discipline is intended to free us from our own small selves and allow us even a glimpse of the infinite, then Buddhism, with its implicit sense of the relativity and transience of all names and forms, Human and Divine, offers a more compassionate, psychologically nuanced approach. Yet it’s surely no accident that Shakespeare, who charts the heights and depths of warts-and-all Divine Humanity, found the finest expression for his native English paganism within a Christian tradition, in which “God” is moved to participate fully in the Human Drama, to live our lives and die our deaths.

The beauty of a Play is just that – it’s only a Play. In The Southwark Mysteries, Jesus affirms the need for the GodMan to journey through Death to Rebirth. However, the other characters don’t necessarily agree. In the course of the drama, Satan, St Peter, Judas, John Crow and The Goose Magdalene all try to persuade him to find another way. The Southwark Mysteries was written in three parts: The Vision Books revealed in verse by The Goose to John Crow; The New Southwark Cycle of Mystery Plays; and The Glossolalaia of local magical lore. It’s medium is its message – and its message is…

Well, let’s let it speak – a bit of it – for itself. Here’s Jesus re-enacting the crucifixion in St Thomas and Guy’s Hospitals, London SE1:

JESUS                      She is anointing me for Death.

JUDAS                     What? You want to die again?

JESUS                      Two thousand years my wounds have been bleeding.
Mary here’s the only one who knows where this is leading.
God must become Man to conquer his mortality…
Into the very jaws of Death, a God must journey…

JUDAS                     For Christ’s sake, Brother Man! This is insanity.
Haven’t you been crucified enough already?

CROW                     Far be it from me to side with Brother Judas, Boss.
But don’t you think it’s time you came down from your Cross
How many times must the Son of Man die
To appease his God Father of Guilt and Shame?

JESUS                      For My Sake, John Crow! You think I don’t know
How many are crucified – and in my name?
You think I don’t hear the hate and the fear,
That howls for the end of the world and its doubt?
You think I don’t feel all the wounds I must heal?
You think I don’t clock that Time’s running out?
You think I don’t taste all your Toxic Waste?
You think I don’t feel your pain?
You don’t think, God knows, God must die for Man
That Man may rise again.

from The Southwark Mysteries by John Constable (Oberon Books)


No Day (upDayte)

April 26, 2010

Not to be confused with Day Zero, yet no less a Day Out Of Time.

Here’s an online review of The Southwark Mysteries from inSE1

And Sam Marlowe’s review in The Times * a flower blooms on the Murdoch midden 😉

And check out Dom and Nadja’s photos of the dress rehearsal and performance in Southwark Cathedral.

If you use facebook you can also check out Steve Ash’s review or the links on our Southwark Mysteries page.


(all is) Day One

April 24, 2010

24th April 2010, the last night of this incarnation of The Southwark Mysteries.

For details of other Southwark Mysteries walks, workshops, performances and other events please keep checking the Mysteries and Crossbones websites (see also blogroll).

Thanks to Sarah Davey-Hull for somehow incorporating a huge collective cast and crew into as complete a realisation of the play as I could have wished. Thanks EVERYBODY who was part of this – together we made it happen! Thanks to everyone I thanked already and everyone I should have thanked more, thanks…

Will spare you another Sally Field Oscar-weep-fest 😦

There may be a Day Zero post-production report though, as benefits such a Day, it may not be bound in time. Any late-comers reading this after the event should be aware that this here is Day One of 100daysofsouthwarkmysteries, a life-changing dramatic-spiritual work involving myself, my partner, our friends and supporters and more than a hundred active participants.

As you travel backwards in time – through Day 2,3,4,5 all the way back to the hundredth day – you’ll be retracing the steps that led me, us, to this moment of truth.  You’ll be able to scrutinize  our most testing moments, the crises of faith and the dark nights of the soul, and also the joy and energy, the sense of community, of being part of something bigger than ourselves that has sustained our diverse little scratch theatre family and empowered us all to support one another and to guide the good ship Goose safely home to anchor in Mary Overie dock.

The Southwark Mysteries was conceived (received) as much more than a play. It aspires to a collective act of transformation. Being human, we will inevitably fall short of all we might have done. Yet I survey all that we’ve have done these last days, I can say we’ve given our all and opened our hearts to sing and dance.

After the show we repaired to The Mudlark and then The Southwark Tavern, actors, stage management, design and pretty much the entire adult community cast, everyone shining and sharing and celebrating into the wee hours.

It may take us a month or two to clear up after the party. It’s already been two or three years in preparation, with three month’s intensive pre-production, workshops and rehearsals – all leading up to our Three Days of walking the walk.

The which, to the very best of our individual and collective abilities, we have – and The Work is – well and truly…




St George’s Day 2 – Our Holy 23rd

April 24, 2010

Lit a candle at Crossbones on my way to the Cathedral. Said a blessing for The Goose alone at the gates – good to know that an hour from then, James and the Friends of Crossbones would be conducting their “skeleton service” of the St George’s Day / Crossbones 23 vigil.

Back-stage at the Cathedral I saw the fabulous Sarah Scarlet resplendent in um… scarlet! Sarah has done wonders with the costumes, working with designer Annie and her incredible volunteer design team. Tonight, she informs me she’s not staying to see the show: “I’m off to the gates.”  So, tonight, the connection, the songlines linking Cathedral and Crossbones were strong.

O, did I mention I was played God tonight. Last night, the fabulous David Meyer, he of the James Bond “assassin twins” who I first met in the early ’70s when he was in Lindsay Kemp’s Flowers * Lindsay, together with Ken Campbell, a huge influence on my theatre. *  Anyway, the sorry tale of how our Quest for God having failed to net Gandalf etc… as leaked to the press for our canny publicist Anna… got us a quirky little piece in today’s edition of The Independent (Arts: the diary by Alice Jones):

If you want a god done properly… do it yourself

Last month in Observations I reported on John Constable’s hunt for an A-lister to play God in his Mysteries, at Southwark Cathedral this weekend. At the time he was awaiting replies from Gyles Brandreth and Michael Caine among others. So what happened? Constable went off Caine when he came out as a Cameron supporter (a party political God was not required), Brandreth politely declined (though admitted, “I have been rehearsing this role for years”) and John Hurt also said no as he’s currently in the US, playing Zeus. So who is God? As befits a deity, he will now be played by two mortals, actor David Meyer and, er, Constable himself. “John wasn’t keen but the company decided it made sense for him to take on the role”, I’m told. Insert own joke about playwrights/god complex here.

haha. Those closest to me know that this 100daysofsouthwarkmysteries has taught me beyond all shadow of a doubt that I JCoftheblog am all too human. It’s not enough I have to be the producer, I have to play God as well?   😉

Still, there is a joke to be had and on this night of all night’s I’m happy to be the butt of it.

I did my best to give Yahweh the respect due from an actor to a character. I did actually jump my cue, invoking the great: “I AM!”  I then had to wait in my pulpit, arms outstretched until the cart had been trundled before resuming:

“I am gracious and great, God without a beginning,
I am maker unmade, all might is in me.
I am life and the way unto wealth-winning.
I am foremost and first, as I bid shall it be…”

Then Satan intervenes: “Methinks you all know who I am…”

Daniel Copeland’s Satan, Merryn Owen’s Jesus, Michelle Watson’s Goose, Charlie Folorunsho’s John Crow, Kai Simmons’ John Taylor, Caroline Garland’s Moll Cutpurse, Oliver Langdon’s Oliver Cromwell, Simon Jermond and Thomas Baker as Satan’s vaudevillian heavies Beelzebub and Abaddon – a core cast made in Heaven!

And the community cast – no, I’m not going to name names – you are each of you a star, each shining by your own light, together with your 50-strong family of players, Tunnellers, Geese, Devils, Sisters of Redcross, Doctors, Nurses, Sick and Infirm, Lost Souls, a Bishop, a Peter,  a Judas, a Drunk, a Florence Nightingale and a Mary Seacole, plus another 20 children acting out the Ballad of Mary Overie and playing Cromwell’s soldiers and the Angels who herd the poor terrified squealing Devils into the pit.

And the magnificent stage management crew, the dressers and make-up artists all working so hard to bring this insanely ambitious epic off, tonight at least, without a hitch.

The audience were very responsive to the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane, of vulgar earthy humour and the intense spiritual journey of the play – laughing and falling silent as the mood changed. Lots of people I didn’t know came and shook my hand and told me how wonderful it was and wonderful it was to hear. Very special though was to see how some of my dearest friends were touched and moved by the work.

I, for one, by this night am changed forever.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, think I’ll just blog off and bliss out.


We can be Heras – just for 3 Days – first night

April 22, 2010

Tonight. The Southwark Mysteries at Southwark Cathedral.

Not for your blog-author to review his own production.

A spirited, strong, clear telling, a bringing of the tale to vivid life – what more could an author ask…

Everyone seemed to get it – and love it – or at least I manage to evade any who didn’t! 🙂  The Dean was generous  in his support – admitting that 10 years ago he’d been a bit more twitchy, knowing the flak he’d catch. This time he felt he could enjoy it much more.

At the VIP reception, held in the medieval church of St Mary Overie, to which our 70 strong cast and crew all invited, Canon Bruce welcomed and then Simon Hughes said good things about Southwark and The Mysteries  – strictly non-political, he’s in purdah for the Elections, but he is after all our patron and so entitled to say a few words!

Then I made a speech and tried to thank everyone who’d helped it happen – from Colin and Simon, and Anne, through Giles, Pauline, Jilly, Bronwyn, to the breakfast with Dan which got the show on the road. All the supporters. The volunteers who helped – from Forster design team to LSBU offer of Edric Hall complete with some very helpful Student Ambassadors. All the people working behind the scenes, Annie and her design team, the stage management crew. Kate Schofield the production manager. The cast. The actors driving the story and the community cast lifting it to epic heights.

And I should also have thanked by name Kate Driver our amazing stage manager, and Sarah Abigail Weightman who helped Annie and her design team work wonders on shoestrings! I did my best – without a script.

Ended my thank you speech by acknowledging that those closest to me know that this work has been testing to the limit, and no-one knows that more than my co-producer (with Sarah), my partner, in art and life, we’ve come through it together and are stronger for it.

Thank you, Katie. You’re a Hera! *

2 more to go!

* A Hera,  for any boys in the class who still don’t know, is what Old Skool Boys like yrstruly might once have called Heroines – afore they was set straight by a Community Cast Hera name of Jennifer.

You can see as short scenes from the play, and interviews with me, sarah and Louisa from our community cast, is on London News (from 22.50)


Day 4 – dress rehearsal

April 21, 2010

What’s this, Brother John blogging in the a of the m? Ain’t he got better producer’s jobs to do? Well, yes I do, and have been up for hours doing them! Today we have:

1.35 – 1.55 pm I’m being interviewed about The Southwark Mysteries on the Robert Elms Show, BBC Radio London. I’ll be rushing back from that to attend a final core cast rehearsal, a press call, a Q2Q and then the dress itself.  Lots of requests for people to switch their ticket day (almost impossible at this stage), for a school to have an extra comp for a Gran because a child performer’s parents are still stuck in Spain, grounded by the volcano, and and and and…

On the day of before the opening, the biggest risk to a Producer is that s/he will worry themselves sick from thinking of all the things that COULD go wrong.

Last night, Katie commented that this blog had been my life-line, my therapy, my discipline to carry me through this roller-coaster 100days ride. She’s right. It helps. Maybe it’s just the nearest thing in this secular cybernetic world to a decent old-fashioned confessional.

I blog therefore I don’t attach. I trust in God howsoever I may conceive S/He to be. And here at 11.59 my computer time, I blog off.


Update 19.13. Right now, in Cathedral, they’re doing a Q2Q. Shhh! I’ve snuck out and home – only 10 minutes walk away – to update the blog while I can. So… The Robert Elms interview went well. People were emailing Rose at the Cathedral to tell her about it. You can hear it on i-player:

John C talks The Southwark Mysteries and Crossbones Graveyard with Robert Elms – our 15 minutes of fame starts at 1.36.15 🙂


sneak wee-hours-of-Day-3 update: old friends turned up at the dress-rehearsal – Jim the sax player who I used to meet on the patch of wild behind Trinity back in the ’80s when he walked his dog Luke, with his partner Vicki, who I met way back in 1999 in the 24 hour Warp parties – hadn’t seen either of them for years – and Sophie O’ and Tony E and Andy M and Yap the poet – a lot of ’em invited by Charlie and Michelle and other core cast members and turned out they knew lots of people in the community cast as well – Zoe and Kim and Lizzie and after the dress we had a drink in The Anchor.

The oldest tavern on Bankside.

The dress went well, no major crises, yet not so perfect as to make us nervous. Amongst we simple theatre folk, there be much superstitious twisty talking, don’t you know.

As in in the actor’s benediction: ‘Break a leg.’


5 Days to our holiDay

April 20, 2010

5 Days to change our lives forever.

HoliDay being Sunday 25th April when our trinity of performances have been performed. By which time, with the help of the God who moves in Mysterious Ways, we will have done what we set out to do. We will, doubtless, have done things we ought not to have done, and left undone things we should have done. We will have done our Honest John best to do it right.

The 5 Days being today: final run through; tomorrow: all-day get-in, dress rehearsal, Q2Q and finally, at the end of a long day, God willing,  our dress rehearsal. First night being this Thursday 22nd April. The magically charged St George’s Day performance on the 23rd and the climactic last night of Saturday 24th.

Let’s all keep breathing, sitting on our space-hoppers, gently bouncing…

today: final run-through with combined core cast and adult community cast. Our last night in Edric Hall, our fabulous rehearsal space provided by London South Bank University on Borough Road. Special thanks to Maxine and Rachida our LSBU Ambassadors who open the space, sign our people in, bring us free refreshments provided by LSBU, and general look after our psychic well-being. Thank you for making us feel so at home.

All day long it was a busy day of dealing with the minutiae – the anomalies – the foolish virgins who didn’t heed the advice to get their lamps lit while there was time and are now hustling for spare candles. We judge them not.

We’re so busy there’s not enough time to blog it all. YesterDay 6 – Geese a-layin’, for instance, I entirely neglected to mention an event of some significance in our Apocalyptic Production Schedule: the arrival of the Ghastly Cherub.

This is the Angel kidnapped by Satan to blow the last trumpet, thereby unleashing a premature Apocalypse complete with the raising of the Great Whore * in case you were wondering 😉

The Ghastly Cherub was a character suggested by the late extraordinary Ken Campbell, when we discussed my modern Mystery Play in our ‘McKee’ writers’ group.  The late remarkable John Joyce was our ‘secretary’, he played the Bishop of Winchester in our 2000 production, the 2010 production is dedicated to him.

The very much alive – if a bit red in the face – Jeff Merrifield was another key member of our writers group and an accomplice to his contemporary Ken Campbell on capers going back to the early 70s. Jeff’s an author in his own write, he wrote Hit Me! the Ian Dury musical. He played the Ghastly Cherub in 2000 at the Globe and in the Cathedral. He’s the only actor in the cast to be reprising the role he created. He’s travelled from his home in Shetland to blow the last trump in Southwark Cathedral.