The Hollow Crown  

As Heather Redding spoke the opening line, from Shakespeare’s Richard II, ‘Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings’ it was clear at once that this was an ensemble piece, with all the cast present on stage and responding to her words. This run through the kings and queens of England from the Saxons to Victoria was presented by a group on stage throughout and fully engaged throughout. As well as this, and the spirited collective singing that interspersed the readings, there were some memorable individual vignettes. Matt Hood was both hilarious and brutal as W. M. Thackeray assassinating the character of George IV. Mary Truell was funny and touching as E. M. Forster’s aunt recalling a girlish encounter with the mad George III. Thomasin Manley-Frost managed to be both arch and endearing as the teenage Jane Austen writing as ‘a partial, prejudiced and ignorant historian’ besotted with Mary, Queen of Scots and loathing all Tudors. There were solemn moments, such as Tim Jupp as Charles I hearing in court that his head was to be separated from his body; and in total contrast the wild Irish irreverence of satirical songs about George IV sung with such comedic flair by Luka and Jay Billington and Beth Cordy. Finally, there was a complete change of dimension as we moved from the chronological line after the details of Victoria’s diary entry on her coronation day to the death of Arthur and the realm of myth. The whole cast rose to hail ‘the once and future king’ and it was done. It wouldn’t have been done without Harland Walshaw’s sensitive direction and the many little rehearsals he undertook with just two or three of the company. Nor would it have been done so well without Mary Burman’s guidance to all the singers or Sandra Jepps’ forgiving accompaniment on the keyboard. With the addition of delicious and plentiful platters of gourmet food provided by David Eaton and his team, the evening was a delightful contribution to King Charles’ Coronation celebrations. Graham Banks

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