Henrician Court Drama

Lead Research Organisation: Oxford Brookes University
Department Name: Faculty of Tech, Design and Environment


The Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace is the only great hall built by Henry VIII. It is also the only existing Renaissance building in England for which there is unambiguous evidence of it being used for performances throughout the period c.1525 - 1658. In particular, the Great Hall at Hampton Court is largely the same space today as it was when William Shakespeare staged his A Midsummer Night's Dream in front of James I.

Henrician Court Drama is a research project into the plays and interludes that were staged at the court of Henry VIII. It will be based on historical research and textual analysis and will use dramatic workshops in the Great Hall at Hampton Court to research Henrician court drama. There has been some very useful research conducted at the New Globe based upon the recreation of authentic performances of Shakespeare's plays but what makes Henrician Court Drama unique is that the Great Hall at Hampton Court is largely the same as it was in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This means that the kind of codas and caveats that inevitably surround research conducted in reconstructed performance spaces like the New Globe will be less pressing when working in the Great Hall.

There are, however, a number of issues that need to be addressed before large-scale workshops can be under taken in the Great Hall and these will be the focus of the first stage of the project. In April 2007 the project will stage a workshop in the Great Hall in order to define the kind of problems that need to be solved before a full research led production of a Henrician court drama could be successfully produced in the Great Hall. The project is going to use a play, The Play of the Wether, by John Heywood, one of the leading playwrights of the time, in order to experiment with different forms of staging and acting. In this play the God Jupiter, representing Henry VIII, decides to come to earth and resolve the constant debates that humans have over which is the best weather. He finds, however, that no-one can agree. Millers want rain while washer women want sun and wind and little boy desires snow. In the end Jupiter decides to leave things as there are. The play is an allegory of the religious choices facing Henry in 1533 and subtly argues that the best policy for the king to follow is to do nothing since to try and please everyone will simply lead to arguments and disputes.

2009 will be the anniversary of Henry VIII's succession in 1509. The overarching aim of Henrician Court Drama is to conduct sufficient research into court drama between now and then to stage a full research led production of The Play of the Wether in 2009.


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Betteridge, Thomas, Riehl, Anna (2010) Tudor Court Culture

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Thomas Betteridge (2007) Performance as Research in Medieval English Theatre

Title Performance of drama workshop at Hampton Court 
Description This was a further workshop at Hampton Court looking at two key topics that arose from the production in 2009 - the extent to which John Heywood's play was a comedy and how it was lit. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2010 
Impact The most notable impact of this research was to further develop understandings of how the Great Hall at Hampton Court functioned as a performance space. 
URL http://stagingthehenriciancourt.brookes.ac.uk/
Title Scenes from The Play of the Weather 
Description Three scenes performed in different ways in the Great Hall at Hampton Court to an invited audience 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2007 
Impact The main impact was in terms of developing the research methodology for further larger research project. 
Description What we discovered was that staging a play in a site specific historical space can generate new and exciting understandings of the work.
Exploitation Route The findings were taken forward in the AHRC funded project Staging the Henrician Court
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description This was a speculative award and the key way in which the findings were used was to develop a research methodology for practice as research in the context of Great Hall Tudor Drama.
First Year Of Impact 2007
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural