Gerry Mulgrew reads Folly’s sermon… and a diary of the rehearsal period

HolbeinFollyImage 1

For those of you interested in the sorts of discussions that occurred during the rehearsal period with Alison Peebles, Tam Dean Burn, Gerry Mulgrew and Gregory Thompson, today you’ll be able to find a diary in the documents section which reveals our preoccupations during that week in January.  Please do have a look and offer suggestions for any of the unanswered questions the readings provoked, the key ones being:

1. What are the differences between the 1540 and 1552/4 pieces, and between the Satire and other drama of the period?

2. What is the role of Diligence?

3. To modernise or not to modernise?

Rehearsal Diary

Here, also, is a video of Gerry Mulgrew reading out Folly’s sermon at the very end of the play.  As it says at the beginning of the rehearsal diary, this is where we started, because Gregory Thompson found it very strange that such an episode should happen after the seeming climax of the play – the enactment of the laws discussed by the parliament.  Yet Folly comes on and undermines this apparently ‘serious’ conclusion by delivering a speech which states ‘Stultorum numerus infinitus’ - the number of fools is infinite.  His monologue takes the form of a sermon joyeux, a mock-sermon delivered by someone who is not a preacher.  In it, he distributes a number of folly hats to society’s fools and his targets are merchants, old men who marry young girls, the clergy, and kings.  The section on kings moves his sermon from the general to the specific as he laments Scotland’s foreign policy and discusses current European conflicts.   He ends by invoking the souls of two contemporary court fools, Gilly‑mouband and ‘good Cacaphaty’, continuing to locate his words in the Scottish present.  The whole speech destabilises any tidy conclusion to the play by shifting responsibility back to the royal spectators and the audience themselves.

The image at the top of the page, incidentally,  is Holbein’s depiction of a fool’s sermon to an audience of fools from Erasmus’ In Praise of Folly.



Gerry Mulgrew on A Satire of the Three Estates

Another treat from the recent script work undertaken with Scottish actors – this time an interview with legendary actor and theatre director, Gerry Mulgrew.  Having served as Artistic Director of touring theatre company Communicado for the last 30 years, if anyone can talk about the significance of the Satire for Scottish theatre history, it’s Gerry.

Of particular interest is his claim that the very local and seemingly historically specific concerns of the play in fact become “timeless and universal” because they concern the poor, social reform, and the corruption of the state – issues which still affect us today. He says that his prior belief that the play  was “stuffy” was challenged by the rehearsal process, and that the actors “have been rather impressed and surprised by how modern some of the ideas seem to be for the middle of the sixteenth century.  It is a great, passionate, humanist piece.”  Like Tam, Gerry picks up on the language of the play; both actors found Robert Burn’s poetry a useful gateway for undertanding it, although Gerry sees it as more of a challenge in terms of its orthography and rhythms.  But he also celebrates its uniqueness and its richness which he says produces a Scottish voice that is “glorious”.


no comments