Cupar Bans performances 1st and 2nd June

The Cupar Bans will perform this weekend at:

The West End Festival , Glasgow at Kelvingrove Museum tomorrow afternoon ( 1st June) at 1pm and 1.30pm.

Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh on 2nd June at 11.30am , 1pm and 2pm

Here we have an short interview with The Linlithgow Players on the performance at the Farmers Market on 25th May.

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Rehearsal blog – day 18 (29.5.2013)


We started off by running Act 2.  It was really interesting to see the political space materialised with so many of the cast members inhabiting it.  Particularly striking was the relationship between the Pauper, parliament and audience, with David McKay speaking upstage but frequently taking in the crowd as the poor ‘commoun’, speaking as and for them.  There was an enlightening change marked between John and Pauper assuming they will not be listened to when they first approach the parliament, followed by their surprise when they realise that Divine Correction has their back – it is the movement from their oppression to their enfranchisement in the play.   Also interesting was the ‘rounding’ together of the Spirituality in the Parliament to take advisement on the laws being proposed – their secret conversations seemed in stark contrast to the transparency of the rest of the political space.  There seemed to be so many members of the Spirituality on the stage – Bishop, Abbot and Parson, as well as the  Friar and Prioress just behind them – as opposed to the self-representing Merchant and Temporality.

We also charted the various responses to John and Pauper’s assertions of ‘Were I ane King’ and ‘Were I ane pape’ with the parliament finding these challenging statements.  Most important though was Rex’s reaction- he stands  in some sort of defiance against Pauper but also listens thoughtfully.  During the Parliament we are witnessing Rex’s bettering as a monarch.

The staging of the Parliament continued into the afternoon – this is definitely one of the most complex parts to realise given the complexities of political access and space in the play.  There is also the question of finding the appropriate reactions.  The Parliament, for instance, stand in sequence when John the Commonwealth shows forth his true faith (the Spirituality reluctantly) – their honorific response demonstrates the verity of John’s words.  The reactions of the Parliament help to mark the various episodes of this long scene, while mitigating against the action becoming static.

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Rehearsal Blog – day 17 (28.5.2013)

Today we concentrated on the entry of the Three Estates ‘gangand backwart’ and John the Commonweal’s appearance.  We read through the whole of the second half of the play to the hanging of the Vices, and broke the Parliament down into its constituent parts.

The Director, Gregory Thompson worked with the actors playing the Estates and their vices on the practicalities and principles of their backward entry. It was decided that the Estates, with the exception of Spirituality, had no sense that they were being led like puppets by the Vices Covetise, Flattery, Deceit, Falsehood and Sensuality. As Spirituality would later say, they see nothing wrong with what they are doing. They think they ‘gang right wonder pleasantly’. So we saw the Estates waving obliviously to the audience as they are dragged backwards by capering Vices who are to them invisible.  (A lot of time was spent on getting the movements right, to music provided by John Kielty with Annie Grace and Kern Falconer.)

It is only when John exposes the Vices ‘lurking’ behind them that Merchand and Temporality see to their horror how they have been deceived by their worst instincts. The Vices are then dragged off to the stocks. We then worked on the impact of John’s address to parliament – how the members react to this bold intrusion, and what the Spirituality make of the ominous references to ‘reformation’ which start to echo around the stage.

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Performance of the Cupar Bans: 25th May, Linlithgow

We performed an edited version of the Cupar Bans at Linlithgow Market Square and Regent Square on Saturday.

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Rehearsal blog -day 16 (24.5.2013)

The_Spirituality_seek_harbour. 4e7d8780c46511e287e222000aaa0aa2_7

We began by looking at the trick by which Oppression manages to get Common Thift to take his place in the stocks.  Once again, the theme of rehearsals, ensuring that the actors stuck to the regular meter and rhyme of the verse, proved key to the scene.   The dialogue was thus run repeatedly until the rhythm began to ‘stick’, and then the action was mapped on top of this.

We had moved into a massive hall at the Pearce Institute and were able to mark it up to show exactly how big the platea, the field, and the various loci of the playing space were.   The actors began the afternoon by exploring this space.  They then read from the opening of the parliament through to the reading of the acts – to get a sense of how this whole section is going to work.  We worked through the characters’ response to the new laws, with Greg saying that the members of the parliament should be waiting to hear whether what they’ve asked for will happen, so that they have to be engaged in an “active listening” during Diligence’s proclamations. The third law about setting the lands in feu seems to be the really radical one, although many are years ahead of their time – such as priests being able to marry, and nunneries being abolished.  The rest of the afternoon was devoted to staging the parliament.

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Rehearsal blog – day 15 (23.5.2013)


We began the day by looking at the relationship between Diligence, Rex and Folly at the end of the play and considered whether Folly was known to the court.  Perhaps Folly, given his centrality to Scottish political discourse (shown by his privileged place in the architecture of Stirling, and the craftsmanship devoted to this particular Stirling Head) is the final piece of the jigsaw of Rex’s court.  Gregory Thompson noted how Folly’s sermon repeats and inverts the two ‘legitimate’ sermons the audience has just witnessed taking place in parliament.

When Folly calls all King’s ‘fools’, is this a moment at which he goes too far, or is Diligence playing the straight man by saying  Folly has gone mad at this point – creating the space for the king himself to decide whether this is the case or not.  This will be heightened in performance by having Folly whisper some of his criticisms of political power to Diligence, only to have Rex urge the fool to speak to him as well.  Perhaps the weak king seems to have learnt how to be a true Renaissance monarch by the end of the play.

We looked at the hanging sections in the afternoon, and found that once again, paramount was the rhythm – they are the tides on which meaning is carried. It is notable that when a part of the text doesn’t ring true aurally for the actors, it is usually a problem with editing or anglicising and that the ears of the company are able to detect it.

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Rehearsal blog – day 14 (22.5.2013)

tam wings

We concentrated today on one of the key reforming moments of the play – the expulsion of the prelates from the Parliament. In the morning we examined the scene when the prelates are stripped and leave the Parliament humiliated. In the afternoon we went back to the earlier moment when the clergy are asked by Divine Correction and the Scribe to account for their behaviour as officeholders and are then confronted by the Doctor’s sermon. Although when I read the play I had simply seen the prelates as collective in rehearsal what became clear was how different Lyndsay makes them. Spirituality, Tom McGovern, is very clearly the leader. He is the one who raises the legitimate question concerning Parliament’s and the King’s right to reform the clergy. But he also seems entirely unaware that his behaviour as a Bishop is unacceptable. Peter Kenny and Michael Daviot, Abbott and Parson, share Spirituality’s sense of wronged innocent. The Parson’s response to the Doctor’s sermon, as rehearsed by Michael, came over as a perfect piece of Lyndsay comic satire. When the Doctor condemns sins like Pride and Lechery the Parson argues that they can’t be sins since if they were, ‘We men of Kirk wald never use them.’

Finally yesterday we got the first look at Divine Corrections costume, and in particular, his wings. They were magnificent; however, if we have a really windy day we might see Tam Dean Burn soaring off over the walls of Linlithgow Palace.

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Rehearsal blog – day 13 (21.5.2013)


In the morning we looked at the opening of the parliament, and there was lots of discussion about the extent of the political discord John the Commonwealth invokes when he enters the parliament.

Peter Kenny (playing the Pardoner and the Abbot) bought up how the word ‘murmel’ (Merchant, ‘How we shall slaik the great murmel?’ and Temporality, ‘to save us frae murmel’) is used in the play to signify social discontent.  The problem or ‘murmel’ is dealt with to some extent by absorbing John into the parliament and making him the fourth estate, but the actor Gerda Stevenson pointed out that there is also something very puritanical and extreme about John the Commonweal’s suggested reforms.  Tom Betteridge said that John’s presence has been produced by the failure of the Commonwealth, and Greg Walker added that there is an anxiety about the forces that have been unleashed by his appearance, and how wide-reaching and oppressive the reforms he suggests might be.

John’s speech at lines 2605-2619 took quite some unpacking to work out exactly who the targets of his censure are – is it the entertainers he is getting at or noble excess? In fact it took all morning to work through lines 2347-3115, paraphrasing them into the vernacular.  After lunch we worked through the actual text.  This is a really key part of the text; the meat of the disagreement, arguably the heart of the play.

We staged the estates gangand backwart into parliament and John’s louping of the stank, and it was great to see these inherently theatrical moments on their feet for the first time having thought about them on the page for so many months.  The backwards motion of the estates results in their bumping into each other, making a point about the realm’s disorder as much as it heightens the comedy.

We discovered that the staging of this section would be dependent on whether we saw the audience as part of the parliament or whether we see them as excluded from it.  This is an important production choice. The actors explored some of the confines of our recreative staging; their inclination to use all the space and address the audience as much as possible was in tension with a political space that is exclusive and accessible only to few.

We finished the day by looking at how Oppression, Falsehood and Deceit get put in the stocks.  Again the inside/outside of the parliament was one of the features that needed attention.  In fact the spatial vocabulary of political space took precedence all day, giving the opportunity to take some great pictures!


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Rehearsal blog – day 10 (17.5.2013)

Firstly we looked at the end of Part One 1785-193, and noted the proximity of the divine and the earthy in the words of Diligence – particularly towards the end of the section, where the official nature of his herald role is subverted when he commands the women in the audience to use the toilet during the break.

Much of this section is in the prosodic form we identified yesterday in the dialogue between Suiter/Suiter’s wife/Pardoner which we have started to call ‘Lyndsay ballad’ – consisting of alternating lines of iambic tetrameter with 1 line of iambic trimeter in a six-line stanza of aabccb rhyme scheme.  It’s interesting because this means that it is not therefore denotative of class (being spoken by Rex and Divine Correction in this scene) but must serve some other dramaturgical or dramatic function.  When the dialogue shifts into iambic pentameter, as Good Counsel’s does in this scene – it has the effect, as the actor Gerda Stevenson said, of an operatic “aria” – it heightens the dramatic stakes.

After lunch, we rehearsed the entrance of the Pauper and the sections between him and the Pardoner in the Interval play, which presented a number of challenges in terms of both the verse-speaking and the staging.  The day ended with a music call for the female Vices, during which Fund-Jonet was directed to “collect” men in the audience through her song.

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Rehearsal blog – day 9 (16.5.2013)

Lots of important discoveries today so a rather long blog…The_reformed_court

Today we worked on the first entrance of Divine Correction. What was interesting was the extent to which Tam Dean Burn’s entry created a whole new atmosphere within the world of the play. Good Counsel, Gerda Stevenson, Chastity, Cara Kelly, and Verity, Alison Peebles, had all tried to reform Rex Humanitus and had failed. Suddenly Divine Correction changed the dynamic. We spent a considerable amount of time on Divine Correction’s provocative question – What is a King? And his equally radical answer – Nought but an officer. Discussing this line in the context of a performance brought home to me quite how potentially dangerous and subversive the question is since what Lyndsay was doing here is asking a heterogeneous audience of people in Cupar and Edinburgh to reflect on the nature of kingship

It was interesting discussing with the actors and directors the nature of Lyndsay’s politics. It was a reminder at how impoverished, in some ways, modern political discourse is since during the discussion one was constantly tempted to separate moral, economic and social issues. Of course in Lyndsay’s world such a separation would have been meaningless, indeed it would have represented the worst behaviour of, as Lyndsay saw it, the clergy. Ane Satyre is concerned with the idea of a commonweal founded on equity where everyone lives within their bounds. In these terms it embodies a very similar approach to politics as that articulated in the C Text of Piers Ploughman. At one level this is a conservative model of politics since it looks back to a mythical golden age where the classes or estates each knew and respected the boundaries of appropriate behaviour. But it could also form the basis of a radical critique of society and in particular those in power. After all Divine Correction’s agenda is a restorative one but is it articulated through radical language and there is a constant sense that those who transgress against the social bond, disregard-less of status or position will be punished.

In the afternoon, we looked at the rooting out of Sensualitie from the realm of Scotland and it was really striking to see female figures of virtuous rule on-stage alongside Divine Correction.

There was a discussion of the unusual word ‘consociable’ – the term used to describe the relationship that the King is now to have with Verity, Chastity and Good Counsel – and its emphasis on ‘society’ as a result of having allegories embodied on the stage, figuring the relationship between king and virtue as interpersonal.   The same is true of the moment when Sensualitie gets absorbed into the Church, in our staging through being pulled onto Spirituality’s knee and pawed by the Abbot.

But the really interesting part was seeing the staging of Rex’s acceptance of Divine Correction’s Counsel and the departing of Sensualitie form the court.  As it is being performed, Rex listens to Divine Correction only as a secondary effect of Sensualitie leaving him, rather than from making a positive choice to do so.  The moment really strengthens the version of Rex we are building as a weak and easily-led King.  As the actor James Mackenzie said to me, he only listens to Correction because he realises he is “alone and Divine Correction is the only person who seems to be offering him any counsel” rather than through his recognition of God’s emissary’s authority.

The final call was with the Pardoner to look at the section where he divorces the Suiter from his wife during the ‘Interlude’ (what we call the ‘Interval play’).  The strong rhythm of this section was quickly identified, and the fact that all of the dialogue is divided into six-line stanzas, largely lines of iambic tetrameter followed by a line of iambic trimeter.  There are clear moments of flying in the piece, and the verse lets it build up to the arse-kissing divorce ritual.  It took quite some time to find the right rhythm and pacing of this section of verse and Greg Thompson noted the paradox of some of the most common characters in the whole play having some of the most technical prosody.

We also had the amazing realization today that we will be opening the play on the same day as the play was performed in 1552 – June 7th!!  It must be serendipity.

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