In March 1976 Cawston
Church saw the production of Thomas Cranmer of Canterbury,
written by Charles Williams and produced by
Paul Farnham, Rector of
Cawston. The cast comprised an unusual mixture of schoolboys from
Cawston College, parishioners of
the Cawston group of parishes, and guest artistes.
The production was relatively highbrow as
befitted Paul’s gifts. Had he not been a priest he was qualified
for an academic or professional musical career. The theme of the
play was Henry VIII’s determined quest to divorce his first wife,
Katharine of Aragon, and marry Anne Boleyn. Cranmer’s role in the
conflict as Archbishop of Canterbury contributed to the Reformation
and establishment of the Protestant church.
Henry was played by Graham Blyth, who still
plays an active part in local amdram; Cranmer was by Keith Noble on
loan from the prestigious Maddermarket and I played Anne Boleyn
(with all of three lines!). My husband John and brother Christopher
Howard were peasant members of the chorus. One of the lords at
court was played by a 19 year old Stephen
As a keen amateur actress I was in awe of Keith
from the Maddermarket. Stephen’s performance was mature and
inventive; a serious precursor perhaps of Melchett in Blackadder?
Rehearsals were often in the Rectory where
Judith, Paul’s wife, was ever ready with endless coffee and
biscuits. Unusually for one so young Stephen was perfectly at home
with Paul in serious academic discussion, which was somewhat over
the heads of the rest of us!
The clearest memory is of full rehearsals in a
glacial Cawston church, with the odd space heater having no effect
whatsoever, and of a bored Cawston College schoolboy mumbling ‘Who
is this Kramer bloke anyway?’!
35 years on we remember Paul’s sad accidental
death in 1980, Graham is a successful architect, Christopher in a
merchant bank in London, and John and I retired and semi-retired