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A Mouthful of Earth: From St Mary Mede to Azincourt

A fresh look at the Battle of Agincourt, and Hampshire's connection to the unfolding of historical events.

April - October 2015

A Mouthful of Earth: From St Mary Mede to Azincourt

We were delighted that to receive funding from Hampshire County Council and Agincourt600 to develop our own touring show exploring the Agincourt story from the perspectives of the ordinary folk whose lives were caught up in the drama on this side of the channel and the other. School pupils, history specialists, museum goers and the wider Hampshire community participated as researchers, performers, learners and audience members, creating a 21st century response to an event of key historical significance for Hampshire.

The new play was performed as a part of  Hampshire's spectacular programme of commemorative events, culminating in a performance at The Great Hall, Winchester on the eve of the 600th anniversary of the battle itself.

Playwright Deborah Gearing delved into the archives to explore scant material available which helped her creatively imagine the lives of the ordinary folk caught up in the action.

The resulting play, A Mouthful of Earth - from Hampshire Field to Azincourt, magnificant in its simplicity, and using a cast of only three actors, tells the story of a handful of people - from both sides of the Channel - whose lives were inextricably caught up in the war between England and France.

The play toured historically significant locations; St Peter’s Church in Bishop’s Waltham, where King Henry camped the night before he set sail for France; Fort Nelson at Portchester which overlooks the bay where King Henry set sail to France; and then to Winchester Great Hall, one of the finest surviving medieval halls in the country. The final performance took place at Lockswood Day Care Centre, a very different venue to the others, but just as relevant for Now Heritage, as we are committed to bringing heritage into the heart of communities, and had agreed to put on the performance to raise funds for Age Concern.


The play also toured three Hampshire secondary schools, involving pupils in the epic creation of the Battle of Agincourt as the show's finale.

Synopsis:

Young Tom, a simple farming boy, eagerly leaves his life of toil to go off and look after the horses for the men that are to fight.  Anne, his mother is furious with Tom and hopelessly tries to make him come home.  Tom’s sister is also angry that she faces having to do his chores on top of her own but more significantly is jealous that as a boy Tom gets the chance to escape their mundane life.  “I’d like to be able to go France!” she declares resentfully.  

Marguerite of Harrefleur beseeches the audience to understand her torment over the potential fate of her husband, and whilst the audience may struggle to understand the detail of her lines, everyone is able to understand the content.

Jack, a longbow man, is an empathetic character brutalised by war.  He demonstrates compassion for Marguerite by allowing her to take her baby and flee her home.  Later, with a few brutal, yet in the context of the battle, necessary strokes, Jack follows the Kings orders and slaughters the defeated French soldiers lest they rise to fight again.  

As the play draws to a horrendous battle climax, the characters come together to sing a beautiful requiem for lives lost on both sides of the battle lines.

Now Heritage would like to give thanks to:

The audiences who attended all performances and for their many words of appreciation.

Hampshire Cultural Trust for the original commission and for giving us the opportunity to perform in the wonderful Great Hall of Winchester.

Hampshire County Council and Agincourt600 for their financial support for this production.

The Rector of St Peter’s Church who allowed us to rehearse and perform in the beautiful church building.

St Peter’s Church choir for their wonderful rendition of medieval music prior to the performance.

Nigel Hosier, Operations Manager of Fort Nelson, for his support in enabling the performances to take place at this amazing venue.

Stroud School in Romsey, Toynbee School in Chandlers Ford and Kings School in Winchester for allowing us to work with their wonderful pupils.

Lockswood Day Care Centre for providing a welcome warm and intimate venue and an appreciative audience.

Fuzzy Vison for their imaginative choreography of the young dancers.

Helen McCardle, who designed and made the costumes based on authentic patterns of clothes of the period.

Laurie Gresty for her beautiful pen and ink drawing of an archer

Dermot of A C Delco for his time and patience teaching the actors how to hold and use a longbow.·

The Now Heritage team were:

Emma Golby-Kirk, director

Barbara Reed, producer

Deborah Gearing, writer

Annie Sanger-Davies, actor

Jack Shaw-Downie, actor

Hannah Timms, actor

Jade Dredge, stage manager

 





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