Tailoring this medieval tale to its modern audience with abundant wit and humour,Nadia Lines with permission for Varsity

Attempting to reconcile the historical and religious with the modern and captivating is no small feat. And yet Nadia Lines’ The Book of Margery Kempe does so effortlessly. Engaging the audience with its witty lines and not so amateur acting, this show arguably left me as rapt as Margery herself.

Tailoring this medieval tale to its modern audience with abundant wit and humour, Lines’ cast mastered not only their lines, but their deliveries. A highlight being Margery’s (Amenie Groves) dramatic assertion that her husband, John (Artemis Loynes) can’t have sex with her anymore. Loynes’ hilariously replies that “Men have rights!” - faultlessly delivered, the irony of the statement brings out the subtle feminist tones that are interwoven throughout this retelling. Writer and director Lines did an equally fabulous job of reconciling this iconic piece of middle age literature with the expectations of a student show with their incredible set design, unique props and masterful sound and lighting.

“Lines’ cast mastered not only their lines, but their deliveries”

Taking on the main role as the eponymous Margery Kempe, Amenie Groves produced a stellar performance - her commitment to this Christian mystic was clear from the moment she stepped on stage. Her calls of distress not only built an incredible tension throughout the play but evoked the very real history of Margery as a woman of public nuisance.

Performing the other half of the show’s most iconic relationship, Akshit Ahuja’s Jesus was perfectly executed in both his characterisation and comedic factor - the slightly strange, sometimes uncomfortable interactions that unfolded between Jesus and Mary enhanced the comic, modern aspect of this retelling, while Ahuja’s intense, loud displays of suffering on the cross created a clever parallel with Margery’s wails. Margery and Jesus’ relationship was expertly interwoven throughout the play, featuring enough to infuse a lighthearted, comedic tone, without derailing the show and turning it into a quasi-erotic retelling of Jesus’ carnal knowledge of Margery.

Amid an undeniably talented cast, a special mention must also go to Theo Parkin’s Bishop Graham. His characterisation of the Bishop left the audience in stitches, and was the perfect marker of eccentricity without awkwardness.

Chandler’s Mary and the multi-rolling actors (Eve Robson and Abi Green) were also unmistakable assets to the play and cannot be overlooked as is the tendency when it comes to larger casts. Notably, the scene with the Dutch tourists during Margery’s pilgrimage added a healthy dose of laughter to the show, humouring the audience as well as setting the scene and reminding the audience that we were witnessing the journeys of a real medieval Christian mystic.

“This play was the epitome of what student theatre strives to be - effortlessly witty and incredibly talented”

Despite having a similar setting to black box theatre, the crew did an excellent job of exploiting all of the variables that they had at their disposal - Margery’s all white outfit, complete with layers, intricate detailing, and a white head covering, is just one example of the attention to detail that is displayed by the crew. In fact, it is clear that costume designer Little has gone above and beyond, adorning the actors in the most temporally relevant yet fun clothing.


Mountain View

Arcadia is far from chaotic

Ultimately, this play was the epitome of what I believe all student theatre strives to be - effortlessly witty and incredibly talented. The cast and crew have done a fantastic job, as their sold out opening night attested to, and I urge anyone reading this, whether you’re a medieval literature fanatic like me, or an average theatre-goer looking for an unusual show to brighten up an evening, to go and buy a ticket to see this Lines’ retelling of The Book of Margery Kempe.

The Book of Margery Kempe is showing at the Corpus Playroom from Wednesday 25th January to Saturday 27th January.