Few stage productions have brought their cast and creative team so much joy as this Murder in the Cathedral, which Scena Mundi Theatre are soon to perform in Southwark. It is without irreverence or facile punning that I can say, as the director, that I feel truly blessed.
Consider my joy: one of the most beautiful texts in the English dramatic canon, a cast whose talent matches their generosity and a jewel of a building for a stage!
And let us not forget the shadow of the Archbishop…
Indeed, there is an uncanny resonance in the idea of performing the story of Becket’s last days in Southwark Cathedral, as it is somehow putting our steps in those of the Archbishop. In early December 1170, a few weeks before his assassination, Becket made a last journey to London to meet Henry, the “Young King”, Henry II’s son whom the old monarch had set in line to be his successor. Becket had been tutor and spiritual guide to the Young Henry and hoped that their former bond would help alleviate the tension between his father and himself and bring about the end of seven years of a quarrel which had torn apart the kingdom of England and divided the Christian church throughout Europe. Things were not, however, to turn in his favour. Having been denied access to the young prince, Becket spent a night in the Augustinian Priory of St Mary Overie, the former name of Southwark Cathedral. There he is said to have preached in public for the last time before starting his last journey to Canterbury.
That was 850 years ago. 2020 will mark the 850th anniversary of Becket’s murder and Scena Mundi Theatre are privileged to be celebrating this in Southwark, through the words of TS Eliot. A large cast of seventeen actors, led by the marvellous Jasper Britton, will “take to the stage” of Southwark before touring to Oxford University Church and Guildford Cathedral. Rehearsals are under way. We are enjoying every minute of them. As the days go and we grow more deeply “possessed” of the play, we are becoming aware of a strong communion between us. Is it the horrible fascination of the subject matter, the urgency and relevance of Thomas’s message, the magic of Eliot’s poetry? All those elements contribute, of course. Somehow, Becket’s sacrifice, ritualistically rendered by Eliot, resonates with us and we cannot wait to hear Thomas’s verse echo in the cathedral. We invite you all to share in this theatrical communion – Come, stand by the cathedral.
Cecilia Dorland, Scena Mundi Artistic Director
Murder in the Cathedral will be performed at the Cathedral on 4,5, 12 and 13 November. Please purchase your tickets from the Experience Tickets website here