A Turbulent Priest is based on the true story of the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Although the story is compressed, it remains as faithful as possible to original character, featuring the key players in the story, Henry II, Thomas Becket, Archbishop Theobald, John of Salisbury and Roger of York. There are also some cameos from St George and St Thomas the Apostle (after whom Thomas Becket was named).
James Cary has always been interested in the story, and the deep dive into this story threw up many fascinating details, many of which had to be left out so the story could be told as clearly as possible. Much as James would happily write a boxed set TV drama based on this story, the need for simplicity in telling this show with only two actors was paramount. It seemed really challenging but one worth attempting.
Being pared back, the show leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Was Thomas naïve to trust the king? Did he have a Messianic complex? Was King Henry II entirely unreasonable? Or could he be forgiven for wanting supreme authority in his own Kingdom? And ultimately, who rules? Can or should the church be allowed to submit to a ‘higher authority’, be it the Pope or God himself? Or does the church have to pay a price for her prophetic voice?
Becket played by a Woman?
In this show, Thomas Becket is played by Freya Storch. James Cary was keen that a woman play the role, partly to compliment a strongly male presence in Henry II (played by Johnny Fairclough). But also, Thomas Becket represents the Church, who is traditionally deemed to be female (the bride of Christ).
The show is written and directed by James Cary. Songs and lyrics by James Sherwood. James and James previously collaborated on a 2017 show, a Monk’s Tale, celebrating Martin Luther’s 95 Theses, and a working on a new show about Scott of the Antarctic.
Running Time: The full show lasts about 1hr 45m. Plus a short interval after 1hr.
Freya Storch plays Thomas Becket, St George and Roger of York. Freya is an actor and writer who trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She has most recently performed in Serious Says in Funny Ways at the Yard Theatre, User Not Found at the Roundhouse and Party Skills for the End of the World at Shoreditch Town Hall. She also works in film, fashion and writes theatre reviews. For full credits and more info check out her website here.
Johnny Fairclough plays Henry II, Archbishop Theobald, John of Salisbury and St Thomas The Apostle. He has recently filmed a new British comedy feature with Stephen Graham and Dave Johns, and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe and Vaults Festivals, and toured Europe with theatrical productions.
James Cary is an award-winning sitcom writer for BBC TV and Radio. He worked on the first two series of Miranda and co-wrote Miranda Hart’s Joke Shop for BBC Radio 2. He co-created Bluestone 42 for BBC3 which ran for three series and has also written episodes of My Family, My Hero and Citizen Khan. His radio credits include Another Case of Milton Jones, Hut 33, Recorded forTraining Purposes, Concrete Cow and Think the Unthinkable and numerous shows for CBBC and CBeebies. His stage show, Infinite Number of Monkeys, was nominated for Perrier Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe. More information on his website here.
James Sherwood is a musical stand-up comedian and comedy writer. He has written for many Radio 4 comedies, including the Now Show and the News Quiz, and devised the topical panel show I Guess That’s Why They Call it the News, for which he also wrote and performed the theme tune. He also provided the theme tune for Guerilla Cricket, the online commentary service. He appears in comedy clubs all over the UK, and in professional church choirs all over London. His compositions range from scathing satirical numbers to sacred choral music.