SUMMERS LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT BY THOMAS NASHE
On 30th September 2017 the audience gathered in Ayckbowm Room prior to seeing the play, which was first performed as a private entertainment for the Archbishop of Canterbury, at his palace in Croydon (now Old Palace School) in autumn 1592. The performance for us was preceded by one the previous evening in the Sam Wanamaker Theatre (part of the Shakespeare Globe complex on London’s South Bank.)
The Banqueting Hall had subdued lighting which gave a great atmosphere – the action of the play taking place in a central space between 3 rows of seats either side. There were about 100 people in the audience including several OPA.
Professor Andrew Hadfield, University of Sussex, introduced the play which was performed by Edwards Boys (an all-boy Theatre Company comprising students from King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s School).
The ghost of Will Summers gives a prologue followed by a commentary throughout the play, beginning by revealing his identity. He then points out members of the audience – particularly the Archbishop of Canterbury, criticises the other actors, complains about the plot and makes reference to current affairs. This latter point was made by the use of an Ikea bag during one scene and a mention of Lidl!
The acting was faultless – some of the speeches were long and interspersed with Latin – one boy spoke for 12 minutes. We also appreciated the musicians and the singing – all undertaken by the boys.
Although I had heard of this play and knew it had been produced at Old Palace in the1990’s, I had no idea of its content. It was a memorable evening and congratulations go to all involved.