For centuries, the church of St Michael the Archangel Chagford has been used not just for services, but for plays, pageants, dancing and feasts, even as an animal market and brewing of its own beer called ‘Scotale’ at one time!
So, to transform the church into the Royal Courts of early 15th century England and France, not to mention the battlefield of Agincourt, for a production of Shakespeare’s Henry V last week, was nothing new!
Tymescythe Theatre states that it ‘creates magical theatre in Chagford, Devon’ in a building which is not only an ancient, beautiful structure and sanctuary, but also a vibrant centre for local people.
This is the fourth large-scale community theatre project (all Shakespeare) that the company, founded in 1991, has staged, using the purpose-built high staging in St. Michael’s Church.
When the idea of producing plays in the church first arose, there was an obvious problem: the traditional fixed pews. Only a small space was left at the front of the church to put a stage. The solution? - building a stage over and encompassing the central front pews. This transforms the church into a unique, atmospheric theatre with the stage framed by the medieval granite pillars and high wooden screen.
With a cast of around 30, plus musicians, technicians and an energetic back-stage crew, the four performances of Henry V played to sold-out houses. Then, almost as if by Shakespearian magic, (‘though actually a brilliant working team), the church returned to its quiet and spiritual space, albeit with the regular, but very varied, schedule of services, toddler group, youth drama, bell-ringing, coffee mornings, choir practice, concerts and other events organised by cross-community, cross-generational groups.
Huge thanks to Director Tom Fynn and his cast and crew for this remarkable event.