Julia Pattison, Theatre Correspondent
Sovereign An Apt Choice For York
Cast of York Theatre Royal's Sovereign. Credit Charlotte Graham
CJ Sansom’s Sovereign is a most apt choice for York Theatre Royal’s Community Play following the nation’s celebrations of the King’s Coronation earlier this year.
We in the audience at Press Night were treated royally too, and we were most grateful to be under cover while watching the play—British summers are so unpredictable. I was in a front row seat, and I was touched by York Theatre Royal’s thoughtfulness in providing footstools for us all for extra comfort.
No such luxury for conspiracist Edward Broderick (brilliantly portrayed by Nick Naidu-Bock), who suffered horribly for his convictions. His gaoler, Fulke Radwinter, was played with incredible feeling and passion by Joe Hopper, making him a most believable character—one you unexpectedly felt great pity for later on in the story.
C J Sansom’s novel has been wonderfully adapted by York playwright Mike Kenny and sensitively directed by three co-directors, Juliet Forster, John R. Wilkinson, and Mingyu Lin.
Setting the play against the beautiful backdrop of King’s Manor was an inspired choice, and Dawn Allsopp’s set design, along with truly magnificent costumes,imposing props, and atmospheric music from the Choir (composed by Dominic Sales and directed by Madeleine Hudson), meant we were all transported back in time.
Sam Thorpe-Spinks and Fergus Rattigan, York Theatre Royal's Sovereign.
Credit Charlotte Graham
Henry VIII had put an end to the centuries-old local theatrical tradition of the much-loved York Mystery Plays, and the play opened with a waggon featuring the city guildswomen performing with great zeal (as always, Rosy Rowley gave her all as an Angel, leading the ladies). It was a great theatrical device to create a chorus in the form of these guildswomen after they’d been thwarted by King Henry (Mark Gowland), using them most effectively as a narrative and collective female voice throughout the play.
We were told to expect intrigue and conspiracy in this Tudor-set thriller, and this was certainly delivered by York Theatre Royal’s 120-strong community cast, led by professional actors Fergus Rattigan and Sam Thorpe-Spinks, playing the 'detective' duo, disabled lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak.
We really took these two to heart; they were a most believable duo, and the close bond between them came across really well as they undertook work for Henry VIII’s Progress to the North.
Fergus Rattigan and Women of York Chorus, York Theatre Royal's Sovereign.
Credit Charlotte Graham.
When a mystery death occurred, we followed their trail as they investigated the signs of conspiracy that threatened the future of the crown.
There were some standout performances from Maurice Crichton, playing the grand Sir William Maleverer, and Livy Potter, portraying royal servant Tamasin Reedbourne. Mention, too, should be made of the excellent casting of Scarlett Rowley as Queen Catherine—so young, so beautiful, so vulnerable… a pawn in the power game being played out by King Henry, who was made to feel as welcome as a wart in York. Twists and turns kept you guessing throughout, giving you a royal night’s entertainment.
Sovereign continues outdoors at King’s Manor, York, until July 30th 2023