Friday, 14 October 2016
This time last week I was one show down on a six show bonanza as part of Bridgwater Arts Centre’s 70th anniversary celebrations. We were putting on a promenade show throughout the centre telling tales of the history of the place and the street with drama, comedy, ghosts and music.
I was cast as Christabella Wyndham, who I knew nothing of, except that in her lines, she abuses Cromwell from the battlements of the then Bridgwater Castle and shoots him. Yes, please.
Coming from Derry, the name Cromwell is virtually a curse. We were always told that he was the cause of the Derry/Londonderry debate as he ‘gave’ Derry to the people of London as a gift after the terrible conquest. I can find no historical back-up to that story. He also became part of our family ‘mythology’. The story goes that my mother (who, unlike her loud and forthright daughter is actually sweet, demure and polite) was visiting her sister in London and they were taking in the sights. But when Mum took in the triumphant Cromwell on his horse outside Parliament, apparently she spat at him!
I told the scriptwriters, Beth Webb and Chloe Lees that I’d be thrilled to take the story one step further and shoot him instead. Enjoying that I relished my opportunity to unleash my vitriol, they added more lines and more curses (thanks to the Shakespearian Book of Insults). I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed calling Cromwell a plume-plucked, dog-hearted, bum bailey…though we were slightly concerned about the meaning until we discovered it was to do with bailiffs, honest.
As I was thinking about all this, I had the slap in the face moment when I ‘remembered/realised’ that my son is called Oliver. I only ever think of Cromwell by surname, and call my son all variations of his name so I don’t put the two together. Whoops! And I recalled my mother’s shock when I said my infant would be called Oliver all those years ago. “After Cromwell?” she shrieked down the phone. Quick thinking and a helpful Catholic education saved the day, “No, Plunkett, Oliver Plunkett”. A saint conveniently buried in Ireland.
Anyway, turns out Christabella was a piece of work, she flashed her breasts at Cromwell first (to distract or insult, I cannot tell) but when she fired, she missed him and killed his sergeant instead. How might she have changed the course of history from little Bridgwater had she been a better shot?
Ah, well, the shows are now over and my heart is quiet having pacified my ancient Irish psyche, for now…
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