Middle Ground Theatre Company present the world stage premiere of Ellis Peter's 6th chronicle of Brother Cadfael The Virgin In The Ice at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre this March.
Between 1977 and 1994 Ellis Peters (Pseudonym of Edith Pargeter) wrote twenty novels featuring the Welsh Benedictine Monk and herbalist - Brother Cadfael who lived in Shrewsbury Abbey in the first half of the 12th Century. In light of Michael Lunney's new stage adaptation we took a trip to the home of Cadfael himself.
Assisted by tour guide and local area expert Dorothy Nicolle we set about the town beginning at the centre-point of all the stories - Shrewsbury Abbey. The Abbey was founded in 1083 and by the 1130's the Abbey still had no shrine to attract pilgrims. According to legend Saint Winefride's suitor Caradog was outraged when she became a nun, and so dicapitated her. Her head was subsequently rejoined by Saint Beuno and the remains of a shrine to her can be found at the Abbey. This story links to themes in the first Cadfael Novel - A Morbid Taste For Bones.
Edith Pargeter died on 14th October 1995 following a fall and short illness. A service was held at Shrewsbury Abbey where a memorial stained glass window to Saint Benedict can be found above the entrance. Part of the window depicts and open book and the character of Brother Cadfael whom Edith Pargeter created. The Cadfael novels are well researched and take place alongside actual historical events and at real venues within Shrewsbury all featured on the tour. The tour of the town continued across the bridge to St Mary's Church and to the castle which also feature heavily in the stories. More on Dorothy's walking tours can be found on her website.
Gareth Thomas as Brother Cadfael
Fans of Cadfael are most likely to be familiar with the character portrayed by Derek Jacobi in the TV series that ran on ITV between 1994 and 1998. Gareth Thomas steps into the iconic role for the stage adaption of The Virgin In The Ice. It is the winter of 1139 and the tranquil life in the monastery gardens of Shrewsbury is interrupted by violence. Raging civil war has sent refugees fleeing north from Worcester. Among them, a missing trio, including a young Benedictine nun. Cadfael's search for them leads him to discover a chilling and terrible murder most foul - a tale of passion gone astray.
The production which receives it's world premiere in Wolverhampton was adapted, designed and directed by Michael Lunney.
I was aware of the Cadfael Chronicles and indeed The Carlton Television Series. At the time I was looking for my next project. I decided to read a number of the Cadfael novels and became an instant convert to the good brother. I like the character as a man and as a priest. The fact that he was 40 years on this earth before he entered the cloister in an attempt to make sense of his life intrigued me. That he had been a Soldier, Sea Farer, Crusader and Sinner, set him aside from the usual vocational calling associated with monastic life.
George Telfer as Brother Elyas
I have always relished a challenge. Adapting, designing, directing and producing “Cadfael: The Virgin In The Ice” is certainly that. It has given and continues to give me many sleepless nights. It might look on paper to be a vanity project, but nothing could be further from the truth .It’s simply cohesive artistic planning and a lot of hard work!
Daniel Murray as Yves Hugonin
The production boasts an acting company of fifteen led by the superb double Bafta Nominee Gareth Thomas as Brother Cadfael. We have also filmed a number of bespoke scenes (some with horses) which are to be projected, to help us with journeys into the Shropshire countryside that segue between scene changes. The Design is partly based upon the Romanesque architecture of Shrewsbury Abbey and the church of St Mary The Virgin at what was Bromfield Priory.
The production marks a double celebration in this year’s calendar. It is the centenary of the birth of Edith Pargeter (Ellis Peters) and Middle Ground Theatre Company’s 25th Birthday. Tickets for the world premiere of The Virgin In The Ice at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre (6th - 9th March 2013) can be booked here.