Thursday, 21 July 2016

"Cry 'God for Harry!'"

'England and St George!'

The English camp before the Battle of Agincourt - on Cusop castle tump

We had a bit of trouble getting up to Cusop Church. Normally, I'd walk up, but the Young Man's bad leg meant he couldn't really get that far. So we tried booking a taxi the evening before. Booktown Taxis were already booked up, so I worked my way down a list of local taxi firms. I got answerphones for some, a couple of numbers don't seem to exist any more, and one lady in Talgarth said they haven't done a taxi service for ages (but the number is still on
On the morning of the event, I tried Glasbury Taxis again - and success!

We got to Cusop Churchyard in time to join in with the kids (with foam swords) for the swordfighting workshop. We had brought our own, steel, re-enactment swords. And I found that I was having a lot of trouble with the first two en garde positions. Also I learned that the defence against headshots is called the St George. I'm badly out of practice! We'd had a bit of a practice the night before, but it was good to watch someone who really knew what he was doing, and was great with the kids.
After the workshop, some of the kids who'd been practicing came to chat to us about our swords - talking about swordplay and medieval battles is a lot easier than actually using the sword!
I'd also brought my bows with me, as there was a bowyer set up in the churchyard too. It turned out to be the local bowyer who made my bow - and he recognised it!.
We brought a picnic lunch (delicious sausage rolls and samosas from the Wholefood Shop) but some people there paid extra on the ticket for a ploughman's lunch. There was tea and coffee available too.
Most of the kids went into the church to make cardboard armour. Some of them wore it for the battle later.
The performance of Henry V, abridged by Hay Theatre CIC, was full audience participation. We began in the churchyard where the members of the cast introduced themselves and Chorus (Malk Williams) delivered the first of the famous speeches - "Oh, for a muse of fire!" He also played Henry V.
Then we moved into the church, which was packed, and included King Richard Booth in a wheelchair. The English throne was at the front by the pulpit and the French throne at the back. There were scheming bishops, the gift of tennis balls to the King, Derek Addyman giving his all as Ancient Pistol - and quizzing Chorus on what his fancy speeches actually meant, and Falstaff's death. Then we were off to Southampton, very effectively, as a sail was lowered from the rafters and the audience were invited to wave streamers and seagulls on sticks.
Then it was outside again for scenes around Harfleur, with the four Captains (Scottish Captain Jamie in full kilt and tam o'shanter!) disputing in the lane by the lychgate. They led us into the Castle field, where we saw the French princess attempting to learn English, and then to the battlefield, with the French tent at one end and the English tent at the other. When we'd arrived, we had all been given stickers of the Cross of St George or the French fleur-de-lys, and now the audience divided to become the English and French armies. We hurled Shakespearean insults at each other before charging, and I must say it was very satisfying to run round the field shouting "Die, French dog!"
We'd spent half the day chatting with Tracy and her husband, who turned up after the swordfighting for the picnic lunch, and we were very grateful, at the end of the performance, for the lift back into town!

It was great fun, and I understand there are plans to do something similar in the winter with A Christmas Carol.

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