The Devils

by John Whiting

directed by Ken Spencer

Performed at the

Nuffield Theatre

on

19th to 23rd January 1993


John Whiting based the play on Aldous Huxley’s book the Devils of Loudun, a copiously and terrifyingly documented account of suspected diabolism in 17th-century France.

These are the historical facts: In 1617, a priest called Urbain Grandier was appointed to the important living of St-Pierre Du-Marche at Loudun, a town in central France. He was then twenty seven, brilliant, handsome, ambitious and lecherous. ‘It is difficult’,says Huxley, ‘to find any medieval or Renaissance writer who does not take it for granted that, from highest prelate to humblest friar, the majority of clergymen are thoroughly disreputable’. After a year or two at Loudun, Grandier had not only seduced several women, but made implacable enemies of several men.

Not surpisingly, his downfall, when it came, came by way of a woman; more suprisingly, a woman whom Grandier had not even seen, let alone seduced. This was Soeur Jeanne des Anges, Prioress of a convent of seventeen Ursuline nuns, a young woman with little true religious vocation. She had heard of Grandier’s amorous exploits, and her virgin imagination was dangerously excited by them. The priest became her secret obsession, and the obsession spread, with results that were grotesque, grim, and (for Grandier) fatal.

The play, a basis of a stunning film by Ken Russell, has great contemporary relevance in a world which has not learned as much as it thinks about the persecution of freedom by fear, bigotry, envy and greed.


 

From THE ADVERTISER

A 14-year-old Southampton school boy is to star in a play in which naked nuns cavort with a priest on stage at the Nuffield Theatre. In The Devils, put on by The Maskers Theatre Company, nuns cast off their habits and dance naked with a priest.

Maskers business manager Michael Patterson, who plays Count Henri Le Condé, the character who has a soft spot for the school boy, said he is putting on a play about nudity because ‘I like it’. But the schoolboy will not appear on stage at any time when the naughty nuns are baring all.

When The Devils (by Aldous Huxley), was produced in the 60’s there was a backlash from the Catholic community, which panned the show claiming it was sacreligious to show ‘nuns’ naked. But the theatre group believes people will not nowadays regard the play as immoral. ‘Today’s audiences are open minded’, said Michael, ‘although I am sure there are some Catholics who still would not want nuns depicted like that’, he added. And he defended the group’s decision to have naked women on stage. ‘The nudity is not done for the publicity. It [nudity] is an integral part of the story, not to have done it would have been a cop out. Without the nudity the play would not he faithful to the playwright. Without the nude scenes the whole thrust of the play would he lost’, he added.

The schoolboy-star’s grandma told the Advertiser: ‘I didn’t know there was going to be nude women in the play. I think he sees enough nakedness on television these days. He has been in several plays and I am very pleased for him.’

The Maskers Theatre Company has previously been at the centre of storms for putting on controversial plays involving nudity. Ashes in 1985, Equus in 1983, both left audience shocked. Michael dismissed a claim that plays are selected because they include nude scenes. ‘We have been going on for 25 years and we put on five plays a years so I am hardly selecting plays because they have nude scenes,’ he said. People who are easily offended are advised to stay away. There is no age bar to entry

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Cast (in order of appearance)
Mannoury, a surgeon Tony Bull
Adam, a chemist Bruce Atkinson
Louis Trincant, public prosecutor Anthony Bull
Philipe Trincant Sarah Spencer
Jean D’Armagnac, Governor of Loudun  David Jupp
de Cerisay, Chief Magistrate Alan Watson
A sewerman Graham Buchanan
Urbain Grandier, Vicar, St Peter’s Steve Clark
Ninon, a widow Hazel Burrows
de la Rochepozay, Bishop of Poitiers David Pike
Father Rangier John Carrington Jnr
Father Barre’ Albert Minns
Sister Jeanne of the Angels, Prioress of St Ursulas Convent Belinda Drew
Sister Claire Kate Atkinson
Sister Louise Katrina Dowding
de Laubardemont, King’s Commissioner Philip de Grouchy
Father Mignon David Bartlett
Sister Gabrielle Emma Carrington
Prince Henri de Conde Michael Patterson
Richelieu Ken Spencer
Louis XIII, King of France Alan Small
Bontemps, a gaoler Anthony Bull
Father Ambrose Douglas Coates
Other Parts Alan Robinson, Sandra Philip, Dominic Farrell
For the Maskers
Director  Ken Spencer
Stage Manager Pat Sawyer
Assistant Stage Managers Dawn Finbow, Nichola Horne
Stage Crew Sue Rackley, Geoff Cook, Pam Cook, MilesSpencer, Julia Campone, Kevin Mitchell, Chris Finbow
Technical Director Ron Tillyer
Set Design Ken Spencer
Lighting Design Clive Weeks
Lighting Operators Clive Weeks, Stuart Cross
Sound  Lawrie Gee
Sound Operator  Martin Caveney
Set Construction Chris Finbow, Edwin Beecroft, Geoff Cook, Bryan Langford
Properties Ella Lockett, Jean Durman
Wardrobe Mistress  Chris Baker
Wardrobe Hire Royal Shakespeare Company, Bristol Costume Hire
Wigs  Showbiz of Southampton
Publicity Michael Patterson
 

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