850 years since the trial of Thomas a Becket



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in Northampton since 1932

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by Jean Anouilh, translated by Frederic and Stephen Raphael


Wed 8 - Sat 11 October 2014
The Great Hall, The Guildhall, Northampton


Thomas a Becket Ste Applegate
King Henry II
Tristan Smith
Bishop of London Phil Purkis
Bishop of Oxford Kevin Pinks
Bishop of York Craig MacPherson
Archbishop of Canterbury Victor Guse
1st Baron Barry Dougall
2nd Baron Roger Toone
3rd Baron Nat Gibbard
4th Baron Alistair Way
Saxon Man Tony Janney
Saxon Daughter Amy Whitehouse
Saxon Son Henry Castle
Falconer Tom Morath
Gwendolyn Ruth Sherry
French Girl Zoe Davey
1st Guard Will Johnson
2nd Guard Jem Clack
Little Monk Oliver Macken
Brother William Lewis Marks
Provost Marshall Craig MacPherson
Arundel Jem Clack
King Louis Barry Dougall
1st French Baron Will Johnston
2nd French Baron Lewis Marks
Pope Tony Janney
Cardinal Owen Warr
Father Superior Victor Guse
Page Lewis Marks
William d'Corbeil Tony Janney
De Lacy Roger Toone
Queen Lynette Applegate
Queen Mother Pat Bancroft
Prince Henry Henry Castle
French Priest Jem Clack
Choirboy Henry Castle
Ladies in Waiting Sue Clarke, Maggie Holland, April Pardoe
Soldiers/Monks Jem Clack, Colin Eccles, Will Johnston

Director Rob Kendall
Stage Manager Claire Brittain
Set Derek Banyard
Lighting Richard Walker, The Works
Costume Pam Mann, Clare Brittain, Masque Costumes, The Works
Continuity Ingrid Heymann
Sound Effects Philip Walsh
Poster/Programme Graham Follett, John Dickie
Publicity Kirsty Spence
Front of House Masque Theatre members

REVIEW: A 'powerful and erratic man'
David Dunkley

Jean Anouilh’s Becket dramatises the friendship between Thomas Becket and King Henry II and its fatal deterioration when Becket transfers his allegiance to God and the Catholic Church upon the King’s impetuous decision to make him Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is set against a background of political and church rivalries and jealousies, the gulf between the Saxons and their Norman conquerors and the almost omnipotent power of the King.

The success of the play obviously depends largely upon the actors portraying Becket (a Saxon in the play but in fact a Norman) and Henry and these were very well played by Masque regular Ste Applegate and newcomer Tristan Smith.

Ste Applegate developed his performance from Henry’s fellow carouser, who still felt the need to tread cautiously and tentatively around this powerful and erratic man (who upon a whim of misguided playfulness would just take his mistress from him), to an Archbishop who had finally found something that he could truly believe in and commit to.

"His way of turning a smile into a cold mask was truly chilling."

Tristan Smith had the ideal commanding voice for the King and, until Becket’s defection, the regal and arrogant attitude of this powerful monarch. His way of turning a smile into a cold mask was truly chilling.

The framing device of Henry’s penitential flagellation for Becket’s murder in Canterbury worked well and there were a number of telling scenes between the minor members of this large cast, all of whom down to Tom Morath’s (live) hawk made a notable contribution.

The scene between the Pope (Tony Janney) and one of his Cardinals (Owen Warr) fairly dripped with cynicism.

The split level set was effectively used by director Rob Kendall but it was beyond his and the cast’s powers to overcome the hall’s dreadful acoustic.

All in all this was a very commendable production marking an important occasion in Northampton’s history and all involved should be congratulated.

PREVIEW: 'Kingship versus the church'
Rob Kendall, director

October 2014 is the 850th anniversary of Archbishop Thomas Becket’s trial at Northampton Castle for financial irregularities while he was Chancellor to Henry II.

It was during this trial that he escaped from the castle and made his way to France pausing, as legend has it, to take a sip of water from the spring, now Becket’s well, at the end of Derngate by Becket’s Park.

"He did what he believed he was called upon to do by God."

Masque were approached by The Friends of Northampton Castle and Northampton Borough Council to commemorate Becket’s association with the town and the production of Anouilh’s period drama Becket was decided upon to be performed in The Guildhall.

For those of you unfamiliar with Anouilh’s script, it is principally about kingship versus the church, as it is about Norman values imposed on the Saxons and the struggle between Henry and Becket’s lust for life. (Incidentally some of you will know the film of the same name with Peter O’Toole playing Henry and Richard Burton playing Becket).

As Chancellor, Becket did as he was instructed for the king but as Archbishop of Canterbury he did what he believed he was called upon to do by God. The eventual clash between the two resulted in Becket’s murder in Canterbury Cathedral in December 1170 by barons who claimed they were carrying out the king’s wishes.

The plot of this large cast costumed production covers the full gamut of the quarrel both political and personal between the two men and all of those caught up in the struggle.

Masque Theatre's production is directed by Masque member Rob Kendall, whose shows for the group include Troilus and Cressida (2014), Margot (2013), Nicholas Nickleby (2012), Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (2012), Romeo and Juliet (2011)and Great Expectations (2010)

Page last updated: 10/02/2015 Masque Theatre © 2015


A scene from Becket

Photo by Graham Follet