Rebecca McCutcheon

Director theatre & site specific performance


Leave a comment

Mariam at Burford

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam

In June 2013, Liz Schafer invited me to develop the site specific research around the text of Mariam for a performance at the Burford Festival, the town of Cary’s birth. This performance formed the launch of the Mariam Project which Liz is producing across academic and performance disciplines.

The Mariam Project seeks to celebrate and research Elizabeth Cary’s Tragedie of Mariam by creating a range of performances in different settings to explore the play and bring Cary’s work to a wider audience.

Mariam at Burford: Youth and young girlhood
Weds 12th June at 4.30pm, St John the Baptist
Part performance, part installation, this 70 minute performance inhabited the church where Elizabeth would have worshipped as a girl, married, and where her family, the Tanfield’s, are ostentatiously entombed. This performance sought to explore Elizabeth’s play in the town she lived in as a child and young woman.  The research centred on resonances between Elizabeth’s life and work, offering a unique opportunity to hear and experience the voice of this remarkable woman, in a contemporary working.

Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam

Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam

Mariam at Burford: Encountering Elizabeth
During the Festival, the Mariam Project we also developed specially crafted and composed audio experience and map, tracing and mapping Elizabeth Tanfield Cary’s life and experiences onto her home town of Burford. The audience could follow the map to 6 locations, where fragments of Elizabeth’s life and work was collaged  with sounds, atmospheres and compositions by Lucy Harrison. I’m thrilled that Encountering Elizabeth will become a permanent offer in Burford shortly.

Here are some audience comments on the performance, followed by some images:
“Wonderful music – beautifully fluid use of the space and movement of the audience. A fascinating glimpse of the play that leaves us all wanting a little more.”
“Looking forward to the complete performance after such a tantalizing glimpse of the play”
“Thank you so much for bringing this wonderful piece to the Burford Festival. A great introduction to “Mariam””
Salome at the altar, Burford 12th june 2013. Sarah Vevers. Image copyright Jamies Smith

Salome at the altar, Burford 12th june 2013. Sarah Vevers. Image copyright Jamies Smith

“Terrific performance and inspired use of the church”

Conor Short as Constabaras; image copyright Jamie Smith

Conor Short as Constabaras; image copyright Jamie Smith

Sarah Vevers as Salome and Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Sarah Vevers as Salome and Flora Wellesley-Wesley as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kate Russel-Smith as Doris with an audience member. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kate Russel-Smith as Doris with an audience member. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Kayleigh Hawkins as Mariam. Image copyright Jamie Smith

Elizabeth Cary and the Mariam Project, by Liz Schafer

2013 sees the 400th anniversary of the publication of The Tragedy of Mariam, Fair Queen of Jewry by the astonishing pioneer playwright Elizabeth Tanfield Cary (1585-1639). The Tragedy of Mariam is the first known play in English written by a woman, and it is a play full of women characters declaring independence, demanding freedom in marriage, and arguing for the right to divorce. At a time when women were expected to dedicate themselves to marriage and children, Cary’s play asked the question ‘Why should such privilege to man be given?’
Born and brought up in Burford Priory, Cary was probably married in St John the Baptist Church, Burford, where she would have attended church. Many years after she had written Mariam, a play about marital conflict, Cary’s own marriage broke down. Cary converted to Catholicism; she was disinherited by her father, Sir Lawrence Tanfield; she separated from her career politician husband, Sir Henry Cary (1st Viscount Falkland); and she was placed under house arrest by Charles I, after a custody battle resulted in Cary kidnapping her own children. During the 1620s, Cary was reduced to such poverty that she frequently ate friends’ leftover meals. But, like her heroine, Mariam, she would not compromise her principles.
Elizabeth Cary is remembered in St John the Baptist Church, Burford, as she is represented kneeling at her parents’ tomb in the church. It is therefore fitting to explore a part of her play in the Church as part of ‘The Mariam Project’ during the Burford Festival.

The Mariam Project is being led by Elizabeth Schafer, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway, University of London.


Leave a comment

The Mariam Project: Curating Disorder

April 2013

Image copyright Jamie Smith

Image copyright Jamie Smith

My current research involves working experimentally with a little known gem, The Tragedie of Mariam, by Elizabeth Cary. This is part of a larger Mariam Project which seeks to focus attention on this little known play through workshops and performances.

I’ve been working with the text in 2 different sites, exploring ways in which the atmospheres and layers of meaning influence and shape the ideas and images emerging from the text. Its been very exciting to have the space  to explore this text, which is a thorny, slippery work, in many ways unlike any other writer I’ve come across and yet influencing, and influenced by, many more familiar voices. The play itself is important as its the first original play in Britain to be written by a woman.

Working as I am, using site as much as text as source and inspiration, the spaces I’m working in have been richly contributing to the process, and I’ve become more aware of how much so much of theatre, and of life, is influenced by the nuances of our direct environment, much of the time in ways which are barely conscious, but there and powerful nonetheless.

The Mariam Project rolls forward, with our next Mariam encounter happening at the Burford Festival, where Elizabeth Cary was born, where we’ll present a two part exploration of the play and ELizabeth’s own life, in the context of the town where she lived and the church she grew up close to. See my newest post for more information on this, and if you’d like to attend, tickets are available here:  http://www.burfordfestival.org/Tickets.html

Image copyright Jamie Smith

Image copyright Jamie Smith

jamiesmithphoto-7624

Image copyright Jamie Smith