SPECIAL REPORT: 800th anniversary of Magna Carta marked with special performance in 12th Century church in Northampton

Made in Northampton launch, artistic director James Dacre in middle NNL-150225-091454001
Made in Northampton launch, artistic director James Dacre in middle NNL-150225-091454001

A 12th Century church in Northampton is to be used as the setting for a performance of William Shakespeare’s King John as part of Royal & Derngate’s 2015 season.

To mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, a company of actors and musicians will perform the play in the candlelit knave of the Holy Sepulchre church in Sheep Street, which was visited by King John during his reign.

Artistic director James Dacre said he hoped to transport audiences back to the 12th century by using the church location during the play’s run from April 24 to May 16.

He said: “King John has scenes set in Northampton and this town was at the crux of the national debate in the lead up to the creation of the Magna Carta.

“No place more symbolically demonstrates the tensions between the church and the state at the time.”

Other productions due to be performed at the Royal & Derngate this year include a new version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, written by award-winning playwright Dawn King.

The world premiere of the play will be at the Northampton theatre in September and it will go on a national tour.

To mark the centenary of Arthur’s Miller’s birth, The Hook, which was suppressed by the FBI for fear that it would cause unrest in New York’s dockyards, will be performed in June.

Another highlight will a performance of the epic story of Cyrano de Bergerac, a poet, a soldier, a brawler and an incurable romantic. This play will be performed in April.

For Christmas, the Royal & Derngate will be hosting a production of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen.

The performance, which will run from November 25 to January 3, will feature new songs, characters in a “mischievous” retelling of the story.

The Royal stage will also be transformed into the mythical kingdom of Camelot for a new version of Merlin, due to be performed from November 26 to January 4, 2016.

The other two productions that are part of the new season are the Victorian thriller Gaslight, being performed in October, and The Herbal Bed, an uplifting play set in Shakesperian England, due to be staged in February 2016.

Mr Dacre said: “Wherever and whenever these plays are set, they have been chosen or commissioned because I believe that each reflects and considers an experience of life in Britain today.

“In each, the central character is an outsider: questioning authority, challenging prejudice, breaking down barriers, fighting to find their place in the world.”


The artistic director at the Royal & Derngate said he was finding his time in Northampton “richly rewarding” and was “incredibly happy” working in the town.

James Dacre (pictured right) started working at the theatre in the summer of 2013, replacing Laurie Sansom, who left to join the National Thetare of Scotland.

Mr Dacre said he was enjoying his time in thetown and was looking forward to the audience reaction to the new Made in Northmapton season.

He said: “I’m incredibly happy here. I’m getting to know the Northampton audience.

“I love the eclectic nature of the people and places in the town.

“I feel enormously privileged to call this town my home and work in a theatre that is so valued by audiences.

“There are a number of rewarding aspects of the job such as working with the children and young people in the acting workshops,” he added.

For more information about the Made in Northampton 2015 season or to book tickets, go to www.

royalandderngate.co.uk or call the Box Office on Northampton 624811.