English Heritage and Brunel University team up to offer visitors to Bolsover Castle a unique chance to recreate history
What: Love’s Welcome at Bolsover
When: Sat 26 Jul – Sun 27 Jul 2014, 6.30pm – 9pm
Prices: Adult £15 / Concession £13
Where: Bolsover Castle, Castle Street, Bolsover, Derbyshire – S44 6PR
Visitors to English Heritage’s newly restored Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire this summer will have the rare opportunity to take part in and inform an exciting new historical research project that will see a unique, authentic staging of the 17th century entertainment that was first performed at the castle for a visit by King Charles I and his wife Queen Henrietta Maria.
Building on new research, two performances of Love’s Welcome at Bolsover, written by famous court playwright Ben Jonson, are to be revived and staged at the castle, on 26 and 27 July, directed by the Professor of Theatre at Brunel University, Tom Betteridge, an expert in historic performance, who helped recreate a major Renaissance play in Scotland last year.
Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire, built by William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, has just reopened after a major project which re-presents its interior and garden as it was in the 1630s, the castle’s heyday. In 1634, King Charles I and his queen Henrietta Maria visited Bolsover and were entertained with Love’s Welcome at Bolsover, written for the occasion.
As part of this wide-ranging Bolsover Castle project, Dr Nicola Stacey, Senior Properties Historian at English Heritage, worked with James Knowles, Professor of Renaissance Literature and Culture at Brunel University, to explore the significance of the royal visit to Bolsover, at a high point in the reign of Charles I. What better way to discover the aspirations, pleasures and politics of Charles’s court than with a recreated performance where visitors take the role of Cavendish’s guests and enjoy the magical atmosphere of this play on the theme of love, whilst picnicking in the garden.
The 380-year-old theatrical extravaganza, Love’s Welcome, will introduce two poetic cupids and includes a dance of ordinary working people: builders, plumbers, glaziers and blacksmiths, whose energetic and merry dancing will offer an entertaining contrast to the measured elegance of the courtly figures. The revival will include a number of Brunel University theatre students playing these roles. James Knowles, an expert on early modern drama and the court masque, who edited the entertainment in its most recent publication, is especially keen on the local angle of the event:
He said: “This is a great opportunity for us to explore a literary text as a social text. I particularly like the fact that the dance by local people allows us to think about the history of the ordinary people behind what was definitely an extraordinary event.
“It’s so rare, and so fascinating to get a glimpse, and it is just that, of the variety of life in an earlier period.”
In order to recreate the theatrical impact of the performance within the newly restored garden at Bolsover, the staging of this production will use the country’s leading early music professionals, historic instruments and adapted songs and music from compositions by Henry Lawes and Nicholas Lanier, two of the most famous musicians of the 17th century.
Historical dance specialist, Charlotte Ewart, who worked on last year’s masque at Banqueting House, has been commissioned to explore and execute the choreography. Watching the performance alongside a costumed King and Queen, as on 30 July 1634, the audience will be invited to take part in the extravagant revels at the end of the evening, the traditional breakdown of the barrier between stage and spectator.
Dr Nicola Stacey said: “This has been a very successful collaboration with Brunel University and we’re really excited to have our visitors take on this important role in the production, a key means for us to understand more about the significance of the royal visit and the political and social context in which it was performed. The two evenings will be a memorable and immersive theatrical experience as our audience will be transported back to 30 July, 1634.”
Visitors to this unique event will not only have a chance to see Bolsover Castle as the setting for a theatrical and evocative entertainment, but this pilot production will help define plans the team at English Heritage and Brunel University hope to take forward in the future, including possible different performance locations at the castle and how to construct historic stage machinery at the site.
What: Muskets & Masques: Charles I at Bolsover
When: Sat 26 Jul – Sun 27 Jul 2014, 10am – 6pm
Prices: Adult £9.50 / Child £5.70 / Concession £8.60 / Family £24.70 / Members: Free (includes entry to Castle & Grounds):
For younger members of the family, there is the opportunity to combine a day visit to Bolsover Castle with a ‘Muskets & Masques’ event, where not only will they see rehearsals underway but they can also prepare their own bow and curtsey as they meet King Charles I on his royal visit and learn the rules of courtly etiquette. However, rumours are rife of civil unrest so they will need to get their pikes at the ready and aim their muskets as they’re put through their paces at Cavalier school.