John Webb, 17, as the king’s page Henry Firebrace and Ellie Warren, 16, as castle servant, Mary Floyd. Picture by Robin Crossley.
STAGE REVIEW CHARLES 1 arrived at Carisbrooke Castle in 1647 as the King of England. He left a prisoner, when he was taken back to London where, eventually, he was executed.
His time at the castle is one of the most fascinating episodes in Island history and one brought brilliantly to life in Island author John Goodwin’s new play, The Prisoner at Carisbrooke.
The Bonchurch Theatre Company, working in association with Vaguely Sunny, staged the new play at Ventnor Baptist Church and Brading Roman Villa.
The play focuses on two relationships, that between the king and his unwilling jailer, Island governor Colonel Robert Hammond, and the growing love between young castle servant, Mary Floyd, and the king’s page, Henry Firebrace.
As well as writing the play and directing it, John Goodwin also took on the challenging central role of the king, the aloof and proud man totally convinced of his divine right to rule as he saw fit, without any interference from Parliament.
Glenn Koppany played Colonel Robert Hammond, the man with the impossible task of keeping the king a prisoner without offending his royal dignity. Hammond is a man in torment, torn between his Puritan sympathies and his innate loyalty to the monarchy.
He is not helped by the fact everyone around him is loyal to the king, dazzled by the royal visitor. His own mother, Mistress Hammond, skillfully played by Chris Rickards, is a natural Royalist and only hopes the king can escape and be reunited with his exiled wife and family.
The young lovers face the same conflict between their duty and their hearts. Mary, charmingly played by Ellie Warren, is in awe of the king and keen to serve him but knows her duty is to obey the governor.
Young Firebrace, played by John Webb, is loyal only to the king and, as he falls for the lovely Mary, he sees she has access to the king that could be turned to his advantage. The young and naive girl, desperately in love, takes little persuading to put her own life at risk to help the imprisoned king.
We all know how the story turns out but the play’s great strength — a tribute to the quality of the writing — is we get caught up in the tension, we feel sympathy with both the king and Hammond in their predicaments and we long for the young lovers to get the happy ending they deserve.
The simple staging of the play perfectly suited its subject matter and setting it in the newly converted Ventnor Baptist Church proved a wise choice.
An extra touch of class in this well received production was provided by the musicians Linda O’Connor and Ian Watterson,
Their singing and recorder playing added an authentic feel of the period.