November 06, 2006

The Phoenix And The Turtle @ The Courtyard Theatre and Holy Trinity Church

The holy grail of the Complete Works, and one that cost me a great deal of time and money in order to get a ticket for! But thoroughly worth it, despite me not knowing the poem at all.

The evening began in the Courtyard, with a talk from Michael Wood about the poem. Without going into lots of dull academic material, he explained how the poem was part of a collection of poems appended to a far longer work, and formed part of a sequence on the theme of the phoenix and the turtle-dove- the other poems being written by Marston, Jonson, Chapman and possibly even John Donne. The full collection hasn’t been published since the mid-nineteenth century, and tonight’s event was going to be the first time ever that the entire sequence had received a dramatic reading.

Michael Wood

Michael’s talk gave an introduction to the context of the poem and a brief look at some of the many interpretations- the Catholic vs. Protestant imagery in the poem, the connection many people have made to Elizabeth and Essex’s relationship, the importance of the War Of The Theatres to the climate of the poem. Ultimately, though, he sees the poem as a beautiful and highly enigmatic work that no-one can truly explain, and one that can be enjoyed for the language alone.

A torchlit procession followed as we all trooped up to Holy Trinity Church and slid into the seats (trying to avoid being stuck behind pillars!). Three actors (the excellent Peter de Jersey is always a highlight, and Joanne Pearce and David Troughton were very good too) in period costume read the different sections, interspersed by music from an acapella choir singing two Motets and three musicians playing Consort music on viol and spinet. With the church lit by candlelight, the atmosphere was a formal and highly powerful one, with overtones of high church and paegantry.

The readings themselves were not overly dramatised, more consisting of the actors reading their sections. Character appeared though- de Jersey was dishevelled while Troughton was stiff and formal, and the latter addressed much of his final piece to de Jersey as he lounged against the side with a goblet of wine.

The music was the highlight of the evening for me, the period pieces giving the place a rich atmosphere, and the choir in particular making beautiful sounds. I have to admit, I’m not very good at listening to poems and following what’s happening, especially with a work as dense as this one, but simply to listen to the sound of the words with the music was reward enough for all the queuing of the day.

The less said about getting home the better- suffice to say that Stratford-upon-Avon is neither easy nor cheap to escape from at half past ten on a Sunday evening. Thoroughly worth it though- the audience were a small but receptive one, and the effort involved in getting the tickets really helped make us feel like we were privileged to have made it. A lovely evening.

And, on a random note- no modern edition of the whole collection of ‘The Phoenix and The Turtle’? Now THAT sounds like a PhD project if ever I heard one…..

- No comments Not publicly viewable

Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

Search this blog


Peter Kirwan is Teaching Associate in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Nottingham and a reviewer of Shakespearean theatre for several academic journals.

The Bardathon is his experimental review blog, covering productions of (or based on) all early modern plays. The aim is to combine immediate reactions with the detail and analysis of the academic review.

Theatre criticism always needs more voices. Please comment with your own views and contributions!

November 2006

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Oct |  Today  | Dec
      1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30         

Blog archive


Most recent comments

  • I think you may be over analysing. Wasn't it just meant to be a bit of a history lesson? I remember … by Sue on this entry
  • Very interesting and commendable, it'll be great to see some more of the plays given this attention.… by on this entry
  • The lack of venture in the filming is probably due to NBC Universal being onboard. They provided the… by Duncan on this entry
  • I have been watching the Hollow Crown and i have enjoyed it very much, the acting i think has been v… by Carole Heath on this entry
  • I know what you mean Steve, and it's a reading I appreciate theoretically, but I felt that Part 1 re… by on this entry


Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder