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.

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