From the 1966 School Magazine "The Review"
Under the guidance of Mr. Bourne the school Drama Society this year
presented Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons. It has become something
of a tradition for Stanfield's plays to be discussed, argued about,
condemned for this or exhalted to the skies for that both in the staff-room
and along the corridors, but there was never a presentation that excited
the school so much as this one. Everyone had some vague inkling of the
theme early in the year, how Cardinal Wolsey opposed King Henry VIII's
demand for divorce and how, in justifying his life he lost it.
The earliest questions asked were, "How can a tragedy of this type be
anything but dismal?", "Will the play merely be a torrent of words
spoken by children pretending to be grown-ups?" and "Will enough
people come to see it to make the audience capable of participating as a
sort of judge of events?" The later questions were "Will the set be
spectacular?" and "Will the problems and their answers have anything
to do with us?"
When the great night arrived answers to these questions were soon
forthcoming. Before the first act there were certainly enough people
present to make a unified response. When the act had concluded the
response was there. The set itself was a delightful balancing of the
formal and picturesque, with a flowered espalier, steps and generous
stage. The movement of the characters, the quick response in conversation
and the delightful interventions of the Common Man kept one's eyes
glued to the stage for every moment. The sex, age and historical period
implied by the spectacle dissolved before the intensity of what was being
said. And, it appeared later, the matter of "what was said" was the
only occasion for for differences of opinion. Difficult phrases and complicated
ideas spoken quickly produce different reactions among spectators.
If you are content to get the gist of what was said, all is well, but some of
the ideas put forward (such as the one on the programme) deserve mulling
over and digesting, and I for one lost several sentences while savouring
a good one that had passed. Of course this is so with any work of art.
You need to prepare yourself for Shakespeare and Sibelius and you need
to prepare yourself for Bolt.
The vast majority of the audience were clearly not halted so frequently
as I was. They rose to the humour and pathos of quickly following
moments as though they were part of the cast themselves. What memories
they took home from the play I do not know, but if they realised that
Wolsey's predicament was one that faces us in small every day of our
lives and could appreciate why he acted as he did, the bounds of their
understanding of the human animal were greatly widened.