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! ūüôā¬†¬†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 ūüôā


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 ūüėČ

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.


Day 6 – Geese a-layin’

April 19, 2010

As it all comes together, the terrifying enormity of what we’re attempting looms at us.

The trick is to keep breaking it down to bite-sized chunks which can be mastered. Like knowing lines – our own and those spoken by others before and after the lines we speak – and where we come in, and go out.

In this very real sense a theatrical production is a microcosm of life itself – and spiritual work, especially for those who find no comfort in traditional religion.

May the Seal of Solomon, which balances female-male, passive-active, dark-light and all other creative contraries, protect and bless our works this week. So be it.


The Seventh Day

April 18, 2010

ToDay 7: not exactly observing the Orthodox Shabbat, not even the Day of Rest observed by my Anglo-Welsh chapel-going ancestors. Even so…

Today, I have been doing bits of producer work, yet in a relaxed, slightly detached way that doesn’t stress me out. ¬†It’s only a week since my crisis of faith – the confrontation with Personal Demons and the childhood fear of failure, my epiphany in Southwark Cathedral and the blessing of the woman priest.

Since then, I can say that I’m a changed man and with that change the world is changed – just as Canon Jane said during the Service of Light, when she spoke of entering into Christ to repair this damaged world.

We’ll hold on the HALLEJULAHs until Day One is done and we’ll all still alive and shining and our lives changed for the better.

YesterDay 8’s free performance was a little triumph for all of us and has given us confidence for the Big 3 in Southwark Cathedral.

Feel a bit like Nick Clegg, the LibDem leader who came out of nowhere to win outright the pre-election TV debate between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Yes, we’re doing good but let us never get cocky or careless.

Only when this tale is told anew, and we are all renewed by the healing energies thereby released, in the very heart of Southwark Cathedral, then, ah then…



April 17, 2010

The symbol of eternity, invoked on this Eighth Day in the countdown to the Poet’s longed-for sense of liberation on the morning after all this is done. Today, at least, a part of The Doing was done.

A beautiful cloud-less, plane-less blue sky day. High noon. Our free public rehearsal-performance in The Scoop, our amphitheatre scooped out of the foundations of the London Assembly. Nearly all the adult community cast have made it Рtheir first chance to stagger through the whole play, woth the core cast,  in front of an audience.

With more than 50 people doing a vocal warm-up, our vowels richochetting off the echoing bowl of The Scoop, we quickly draw a crowd, the ranks of curious tourists swelled by the ranks of those who’ve come especially to see ¬†the one free scratch performance of The Southwark Mysteries.

Sarah makes it clear that this is a rehearsal-performance and that she may stop us and ask us to do something again.  She then invites me to introduce the performance.  I begin by giving thanks that for the first time in my life the skies over London are silence. It gets a big round of applause.

The company – professional and community casts do wonders to make sense of this weird apocalyptic story. Some of it is funny, some very moving… The audience is enthralled. When Michelle softened her voice to appeal to Jesus as Mary Magdalene, you could have heard a pin drop.

Everyone really gave of their best. Today was a collective triumph. Thank you all who were part of it, on-stage, back-stage or supporting us in the audience.

We’ve still got those three nights at the Cathedral to make good. Yet verily this Day 8, together, we did good work. Good work was done.



April 16, 2010

Countdown to first night (Day 3) of three once-in-a-decade ritual performances of¬†The Southwark Mysteries in Southwark Cathedral next Thursday 22nd April. All performances are fully booked. If you’d like to see a free rehearsal-performance…

Tomorrow, Saturday 17th at nOOn
at The Scoop, More London
near London Assembly Building, riverside SE1:

FREE OPEN  rehearsal/performance of The Southwark Mysteries
performed by the combined core and community casts
We were there this morning, our intrepid little troupe, for our third day of Mysteries street theatre. Roll of honour: Jennifer, Kim, Susanna, Sarah H, Lizzie, Zoe, Daisy, Irene, ¬†Pete, ¬†Ed, Shaun, ¬†Rowan, Leslie – forgive me if I’ve forgotten anyone – with yours truly fronting the little scratch cabaret in and Ita orchestrating the Sisters of Redcross.
I compere as a cross-between John Crow and John Taylor the Water Poet. Somewhere in there I find myself doing a spot of unlicensed channelling and hear myself speaking of the need to also honour God the Mother. A surprising theological moment for Crow, before, in the shadow of the London Assembly Cucumber, ¬†we get back to the politics. ūüôā
We do our classics: The Ballad of Mary Overie, The Goose’s Song. ¬†Today I’m especially encouraging community cast members to step out and perform their own work. And they do – Zoe performs a vivid rhythmic poem exploring her energetic responses to the Mysteries and the Cathedral. Shaun does his Tunneller’s back-story poem. Rainbow Lizzie does hers for the working girls, “inspired by your words”:

I might be a tart, but I got a kind heart
And me dad would’ve been in the Marshalsea
Now I’ve come here to be free
So I took a part in John Crows play
So I could come to the southwark and have my say
All I ever wanted was love
And all I ever got was glove
But now that fella John Crow
Come to help us prostitutes  see
That we could all be free
And you’ll all see we’ll let the love in
and our hearts will run free
Truely this will be a Southwark Mystery

Irene sings: Mercy Now! accompanying herself on autoharp. So haunting and plaintive, opening hearts which the Sisters of Redcross proceed to transfigure By The Grace of Our Lady Mary Overie. And I Am All THe Death And Pain Рa massed band of fierce feisty women of all ages Рjaws in the audience visibly drop!

And Sarah H (not to be confused with director Sarah D-H) reprises her amazing poem inspired by the ‘female gladiator’ who remains were unearthed by the Roman cemetery off Watling Street, Southwark. ¬†Sarah’s ¬†works the audience really well, has us all chanting Infamy! I asked her permission to post her poem up here and today she gave it, and here it is:

Great Dover Street Woman

Amazon! Infamy!

As old as Christ Jesus
Mercury at my heels
Weary from battle, laid to rest
I cannot speak my secrets
Though all shall be unearthed.
Flint and bone,
Shard on stone.
Eight lamps to light my way.

Amazon! Infamy!

An arena spectacular
Two ladies in leather
Cut and slash. This girl fought well.
‘Respected but not respectable’
My glory earned,
My body burned.
The grace in my disgrace.

Amazon! Infamy!

You ask your questions
That have no answers
Did I choose, was I chosen?
Was I freeborn? Was I slave?
Illicit fun?
My battle won?
Daughter of Rome.
Mystery of Southwark.

We cannot speak our secrets
Though all shall be unearthed.


Awesome! I wound up proceedings with the invocation from The Book of The Magdalene, in which the Cathedral opens its heart to receive her. Some community cast members got quite choked up.

To see Jesus drive our Devils in the community cast rehearsals in the  videos by Princess Lint click here