Theatre in the Quarter, Chester’s professional theatre company will be taking audiences back in time to a Jacobean age of gun powder plots and assassinations for their next production.
James will tell the story of King James I who survived numerous assassination attempts and ordered the creation of the best selling bible in the world.
Commissioned by the King James Bible Trust and supported by Arts Council England, Cheshire West and Chester Council and Chester Literature Festival, James is an exciting new musical play which is being piloted in Chester as part of the Literature Festival.
The intention is for the play to tour more widely next year, marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.
Last week a film crew and the actors used Chester Cathedral to film the dream sequences which will be shown at certain points in the play. As with all their previous productions, James is made up of both professional and community actors and the Theatre in the Quarter community choir.
Professional actor Michael Cole, who takes on the lead role, has a background in both theatre and TV – including two years on Channel Fives’ Family Affairs and stints on Casualty and other BBC dramas.
Michael admits he didn’t know much about King James I before he signed up to do the play.
He said: “I have discovered he is a very interesting character. He is so powerful, but also so fearful.
“He is constantly terrified of being assassinated, and this affected every part of his life.”
Michael, who has worked with the theatre company’s artistic director Matt Baker before, said he was delighted to work on this production.
He said: “The community actors are brilliant. I understand how important it is for them to be part of a production like this, because that is how I started out. This is where you learn the ropes.”
Although Michael is filming scenes for the play he said he still hasn’t seen the script.
“This is highly unusual for me to be involved this early. Usually I start work in the rehearsals a couple of weeks before the production, but because of the filming I have been able to come up here earlier.
Michael admits the main thing he is concerned about is his Scottish accent.
“I am just putting the practice in, to make sure it is right every night.”
Artistic director Matt Baker, who has written the music for the production, said: “I listened to a lot of music of that period, some Gibbons and Byrd. The music in the production is all original but some of it has this Jacobean feel. Other parts are completely up to date and reflect the action and tension in the performance.”
This is the first time Theatre in the Quarter will be using film in one of their productions.
Director Anderson West, from Staffordshire University film and media department, said Chester Cathedral was the perfect place for filming the dream sequences.
He said: “With the lighting and smoke and this fantastic building here, we were really able to create a scary and tense atmosphere.”
Matt added, Theatre in the Quarter is really becoming part of the cultural fabric of Chester.
“After the success of Chestival during the summer, we hope James and our Christmas production will really round off a fantastic year for arts in the city.”
James can be seen in October and details of dates and venues will be unveiled soon. Tickets can be bought from Chester Tourist Board, at Chester Town Hall.