19th to 23rd January 1993
John Whiting based the play on Aldous Huxley’s book the Devils of Loudun, a copiously and terrifyingly documented account of suspected diabolism in 17th-century France.
These are the historical facts: In 1617, a priest called Urbain Grandier was appointed to the important living of St-Pierre Du-Marche at Loudun, a town in central France. He was then twenty seven, brilliant, handsome, ambitious and lecherous. ‘It is difficult’,says Huxley, ‘to find any medieval or Renaissance writer who does not take it for granted that, from highest prelate to humblest friar, the majority of clergymen are thoroughly disreputable’. After a year or two at Loudun, Grandier had not only seduced several women, but made implacable enemies of several men.
Not surpisingly, his downfall, when it came, came by way of a woman; more suprisingly, a woman whom Grandier had not even seen, let alone seduced. This was Soeur Jeanne des Anges, Prioress of a convent of seventeen Ursuline nuns, a young woman with little true religious vocation. She had heard of Grandier’s amorous exploits, and her virgin imagination was dangerously excited by them. The priest became her secret obsession, and the obsession spread, with results that were grotesque, grim, and (for Grandier) fatal.
The play, a basis of a stunning film by Ken Russell, has great contemporary relevance in a world which has not learned as much as it thinks about the persecution of freedom by fear, bigotry, envy and greed.
From THE ADVERTISER
A 14-year-old Southampton school boy is to star in a play in which naked nuns cavort with a priest on stage at the Nuffield Theatre. In The Devils, put on by The Maskers Theatre Company, nuns cast off their habits and dance naked with a priest.
Maskers business manager Michael Patterson, who plays Count Henri Le Condé, the character who has a soft spot for the school boy, said he is putting on a play about nudity because ‘I like it’. But the schoolboy will not appear on stage at any time when the naughty nuns are baring all.
When The Devils (by Aldous Huxley), was produced in the 60’s there was a backlash from the Catholic community, which panned the show claiming it was sacreligious to show ‘nuns’ naked. But the theatre group believes people will not nowadays regard the play as immoral. ‘Today’s audiences are open minded’, said Michael, ‘although I am sure there are some Catholics who still would not want nuns depicted like that’, he added. And he defended the group’s decision to have naked women on stage. ‘The nudity is not done for the publicity. It [nudity] is an integral part of the story, not to have done it would have been a cop out. Without the nudity the play would not he faithful to the playwright. Without the nude scenes the whole thrust of the play would he lost’, he added.
The schoolboy-star’s grandma told the Advertiser: ‘I didn’t know there was going to be nude women in the play. I think he sees enough nakedness on television these days. He has been in several plays and I am very pleased for him.’
The Maskers Theatre Company has previously been at the centre of storms for putting on controversial plays involving nudity. Ashes in 1985, Equus in 1983, both left audience shocked. Michael dismissed a claim that plays are selected because they include nude scenes. ‘We have been going on for 25 years and we put on five plays a years so I am hardly selecting plays because they have nude scenes,’ he said. People who are easily offended are advised to stay away. There is no age bar to entry
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|Cast (in order of appearance)|
|Mannoury, a surgeon||Tony Bull|
|Adam, a chemist||Bruce Atkinson|
|Louis Trincant, public prosecutor||Anthony Bull|
|Philipe Trincant||Sarah Spencer|
|Jean D’Armagnac, Governor of Loudun||David Jupp|
|de Cerisay, Chief Magistrate||Alan Watson|
|A sewerman||Graham Buchanan|
|Urbain Grandier, Vicar, St Peter’s||Steve Clark|
|Ninon, a widow||Hazel Burrows|
|de la Rochepozay, Bishop of Poitiers||David Pike|
|Father Rangier||John Carrington Jnr|
|Father Barre’||Albert Minns|
|Sister Jeanne of the Angels, Prioress of St Ursulas Convent||Belinda Drew|
|Sister Claire||Kate Atkinson|
|Sister Louise||Katrina Dowding|
|de Laubardemont, King’s Commissioner||Philip de Grouchy|
|Father Mignon||David Bartlett|
|Sister Gabrielle||Emma Carrington|
|Prince Henri de Conde||Michael Patterson|
|Louis XIII, King of France||Alan Small|
|Bontemps, a gaoler||Anthony Bull|
|Father Ambrose||Douglas Coates|
|Other Parts||Alan Robinson, Sandra Philip, Dominic Farrell|
|For the Maskers|
|Stage Manager||Pat Sawyer|
|Assistant Stage Managers||Dawn Finbow, Nichola Horne|
|Stage Crew||Sue Rackley, Geoff Cook, Pam Cook, MilesSpencer, Julia Campone, Kevin Mitchell, Chris Finbow|
|Technical Director||Ron Tillyer|
|Set Design||Ken Spencer|
|Lighting Design||Clive Weeks|
|Lighting Operators||Clive Weeks, Stuart Cross|
|Sound Operator||Martin Caveney|
|Set Construction||Chris Finbow, Edwin Beecroft, Geoff Cook, Bryan Langford|
|Properties||Ella Lockett, Jean Durman|
|Wardrobe Mistress||Chris Baker|
|Wardrobe Hire||Royal Shakespeare Company, Bristol Costume Hire|
|Wigs||Showbiz of Southampton|
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