Posted on 18 July 2023
The play is staged outside in the courtyard of King’s Manor, which provides the location for the drama that unfolds in 1541 in York under the reign of King Henry VIII. The story follows the events of the King’s ‘Progress’ to the north, where he set out to accept the formal surrender from those who had rebelled during the Pilgrimage of Grace.
Told through the voices of the people of York, the play has two professional actors, alongside local volunteers in both cast, music, and backstage crew, including adults and school children, as well as staff, students, and graduates from the University.
The story focuses on Lawyer Matthew Shardlake, played by Fergus Rattigan, and his assistant Jack Barak, played by University of York graduate Sam Thorpe-Spinks, as they await the arrival of Henry VIII, whilst protecting a dangerous prisoner who is to be returned to London for interrogation.
Juliet Forster, Co-Director of Sovereign & Creative Director of York Theatre Royal said, “We are thrilled to have been able to work with the University of York to bring our community production of Sovereign to life in the very setting which Henry VIII himself would have visited when he came to York.
“The production has been a huge labour of love with hundreds of volunteers working together across all areas – both on stage and off, to bring the story to life, and we can’t wait for audiences to see what we have created for them against the majestic backdrop of King’s Manor.”
Henry on Tour
Audiences will also be able to learn about the University’s new research project, Henry on Tour, which explores archival sources, architecture, archaeology and music to understand why Henry VIII spent so much time travelling around his kingdom, and the logistics of transporting the splendour of the Tudor court to communities far from London.
A particular focus of the project – a collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces – is the city of York, visited by Henry and Queen Catherine in 1541 to accept the submission of those involved in the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion and to shore up the power of the royal Council of the North, which met at King’s Manor between 1539 and 1641.
Dr Kate Giles, from the University of York’s Heritage360 Research Centre, said: “Royal tours are common to the monarchy to this day, and as we enter into a new era of the family under King Charles, it is timely to ask these questions, as well as create educational tools that will allow the next generation to gain an insight into our royal heritage, which will include 2D and 3D digital reconstructions of the places Henry visited.
“Audiences who attend Sovereign at King’s Manor will be able to experience the fictional drama that unfolded around the King’s time in York, whilst in real-life sat in the very space that Henry visited.”
For more information about the production visit: https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/sovereign/
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