Sir Thomas More.
Not Wolf Hall.
Not A Man For All Seasons.
Not even Henry VIII.
This week’s reading in the KiSS series of Shakespeare plays acknowledged as his after the publication of the First Folio is a unique handling of More’s story against the background of his times. The play covers his rise to fame and position as he quells a mob of anti-immigrant Londoners. It shows his dealings with folk as diverse as Erasmus and players and cutpurses. And it negotiates a tricky path around the censor at a time when the issues around More’s imprisonment and execution were still live to show his conscience leading to his fall.
Unique in another way: Shakespeare is not the prime mover in this play. He’s one of several writers polishing up a play that’s already in trouble with the censor of the day. But Sir Thomas More is nevertheless timely in the way Shakespeare so often is. More’s speech to the mob about the refugees has become well-known in the last few years, in part due to Ian McKellen’s delivery of it in the RSC Shakespeare 400 gala. Come and hear how this great scene fits into a bustling and entertaining play.
The manuscript of Sir Thomas More was discovered and first published 170 years ago. Editions of it are scarcer than other Shakespeares but are easily available: most easily and authoritatively in the Complete Oxford Shakespeare (2nd edition 2005) edited by Wells and Taylor, or in the Arden Shakespeare series in a standalone edition edited by John Jowett. If you are able to bring your own copy of the play, please do. But there will be a very few extra copies available.
Like all events in the KiSS series, the reading is free and open to all. You need no experience and parts are allocated on the night. We’re reading Sir Thomas More this Thursday, 30th November, in the Gallery of the Rose Theatre in Kingston, starting at 6pm. Please join us for a rare opportunity to hear this sturdy but unfamiliar play.