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‘1066: The Bayeux brought to life’ is presented as part of the Anywhere Theatre Festival
Venue: Queensland Museum Collectors’ Cafe
Duration: 60 minutes

Three kings, one kingdom.

Harold Godwinson is appointed King of England when Edward the Confessor, his brother-in-law, dies childless in January 1066.

Surprised, William ‘the Lucky’ of Normandy counter-claims that Edward had earlier named him as successor.

Who will rule? The decider is one epic battle: 1066, the Battle of Hastings.

The Bayeux Tapestry, 70 metres of embroidered cloth, depicts Harold’s demise and William’s rise to the throne in panels grouped into 13 scenes.

Belinda McCormack’s brilliantly conceived set design is modular, portable and beautifully styled.

The visual style takes its cue from the tapestry. Costumes are in strong colours hemmed in panel border designs, the border motif from the first panel is used to frame the main stage, stylised trees convert easily to a long ship.

A strong mediaeval theme composed by sound designer Robert Mills heralds the arrival of the players. In stylised action, they embroider banners of cloth. A projection of the first Bayeux panel, used with permission, opens to Harold’s meeting with King Edward.

Elements from key panels are animated by AV designer Ben Tragea. Notable moments are the wonder of Halley’s comet – seen by some as a bad omen, and, the Battle of Hastings which features 50 layers of animation.

By the alchemy of a clever script, subtle costume changes and able acting, seven players become a cast of thousands. Director Paul Adams says: “The chorus structure allows us to represent the English people, the Witenagamot, both the English and Norman Army, the Thanes of Northumbria, while still having actors able to step out and play individual characters.”

Lighting designer Steve Tibbits uses primary colours to good effect to emphasise the tapestry’s cartoon-like character. Would-be kings Harold Godwinson (of the red cloak) and William of Normandy (of the yellow tunic and brown cloak) are backlit in blue and yellow lights at key moments. It’s easy to merge into or emerge from the chorus as the cloak is removed or donned.

Stratagems of posture, vocal delivery and costume changes conspire to make believable the two to four roles that each of the others play.

The script, written and researched by Paul Adams and Penny Farrow, gives us a measure of these kings: a brooding Harold determined that England shall remain Saxon, and, William of Normandy – a cunning psychologist and leader of men who keeps his enemies close.

Pick your team – red or yellow. More than an armchair ride, this is history – live, personal and epic!

Performance seen: 8 May 2013
Review: Shirley Way

Director: Paul Adams
Cast: James Trigg, Silvan Rus, Samantha Yeates, Bronte Pearce, Tamara McLaughlin, Laura McKenna, Richard Lamont
Small Crown Productions team led by Paul Adams and Caroline Bell