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The Royal Pardon

The Barn Theatre, Southwick Community Centre

October 9, 10, 11 & 12, 1991

The Royal Pardon

by John Arden  &  Margaretta D’Arcy

Directed by
Jamie Boath

1991 BHAC Full Length Drama Competition

– The Arthur Churchill Award for Excellence

– Best Director : for directing with Zest, Panache and Wit

– Best Performance – Bob Ryder

– Best Acting Performances – Patrick Johnson : for two beautifully contrasted Comic Cameos

– Best Programme Design

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“big laughs lacking”
– Shoreham Herald –


Bob Ryder – Luke [a soldier]

Strolling Actors

Philip O’Brien – Charles [a clown]

Judith Berrill – Esmeralda

Ralph Dawes – Mr. Croke

Sheila Wright – Mrs. Croke

Paul Brand – William


Kevin Isaac – Mr. Hopkins [a Constable]

Stanley Jones – Mr. Higginbottom [an Under Constable]

Audrey Laye – Mrs. Higginbottom [his wife]

The English Court

Philip Burton – Lord Chamberlain

Patrick Johnson – The King

Janet Comber – The Prince

The French Court

Philip O’Brien – An Officer

Margaret Faggetter – Mme Zenobie [an Actress]

Philip Burton – M. Hercule [an Actor]

Patrick Johnson – The King

Hannah Collis – The Princess

Meriel Murdoch-Hume – A Cook


Production Crew

Stage ManagerDave Comber

Set ConstructionRalph Dawes

Set ConstructionDave Collis

Set ConstructionDave Comber

Set ConstructionMike Davy

Music ComposerPatrick Johnson

Properties (begged, borrowed or stolen) – Sue Whittaker

ContinuityJean Porter

LightingFrances Thorne

CostumesMargaret Faggetter

CostumesFrances Thorne

CostumesMeriel Murdoch-Hume

MasksJudith Berrill

Front of House ManagerMark Flower

Box OfficeJill Redman

PublicityAndrew Cregeen

PublicityAnn Donkin

PublicityJean Porter

Foyer PhotographsGeorge Laye


Programme Note #1: The Royal Pardon

JB wrote: “The Royal Pardon is a plea for popular theatre, against theatre for the elite few. The Authors accept that theatre is a compromise between real and unreal and celebrate this fact. As the Prologue says: ‘All is paper; all is cardboard’. So sit back and enjoy yourself as we reveal the unreal and revel in the irrelevant!”

Programme Note #2: The Royal Pardon

About the Authors

John Arden was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire in 1930 and now lives with his wife, Margaretta D’Arcy in Galway, Ireland.

Arden’s career as a dramatist began with The Radio Play / The Life of Man followed by three plays produced at the Royal Court Theatre, London. These were The Waters of Babylon, performed once in 1957, and greeted with outright hostility. Live Like Pigs [1958] and Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance [1959], his best known play. These early plays baffled audiences, due partly to the fact that he would present two strong sides to the issue concerned within the play, yet refuse to let audiences know where he stood on the subject. The theatre-going audiences of the time demanded their drama in black and white, right and wrong. Arden presented them with the grey area in between and was thus labelled ‘difficult’ and largely ignored.

The Workhouse Donkey was staged at the Chichester Festival Theatre in 1963, under the direction of Laurence Olivier, followed by Armstrong’s Last Goodnight [1964] written in an archaic Scottish dialect, and Left Handed Liberty commissioned to commemorate the 750th anniversary of The Magna Carta.

Arden began collaborating with Margaretta D’Arcy with The Happy Haven in 1960, followed the same year by The Business of Good Government, a nativity play. The reaction to his own plays, together with D’Arcy’s ideas on the theatre let them to write a play expounding these ideas: The Royal Pardon.

The Royal Pardon came at a turning point in their careers and henceforward they took a more and more uncommercial path, culminating in 1972 with The Island of the Mighty staged by The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Arden and D’Arcy attended the first run through, two weeks prior to opening and found themselves unhappy with the extensive cuts inflicted by the Director; and the general style of the production. Unable to resolve these problems in a meeting of everyone concerned, they picketed the theatre. At the preview, some of their supporters stopped the play, Arden offered to speak but was shouted down by the audience. He and D’Arcy left for Ireland saying ‘We will never write for you again’.

Since then, Arden and D’Arcy have worked mainly in the Republic of Ireland, their main output being the 26 hour Non Stop Connolly Show about the Irish Activist James Connolly, staged at Dublin’s Festival Hall over Easter 1975; The Little Gray Home in the West [1978] and Vandaleur’s Folly [1978].

Even if they keep to their world and never write for the English Theatre again, their vast and diverse collection of plays remain some of the richest and most thought provoking in the English language.

[John Arden 26 October 1930 – 28 March 2012] [Margaretta D’Arcy 1934 – ]