Sewell Barn Theatre, Constitution Hill, Norwich NR3 4BB               Box office: 01603 626414                   Sewell Barn Trust: Registered Charity No 277724

The Sewell Barn Company

Flare Path Back to casting notes

The Love of the Nightingale

By Timberlake Wertenbaker

Director: Tony Fullwood :

PERFORMANCES :  26th- 28th March; 1st- 4th April (matinée and evening on 4th) 2020

THE PLAY : This modern re-telling of the myth of Philomele was written for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988. For helping civilized Athens win a war, Tereus, king of uncultivated Thrace, claims Procne, the king’s daughter, as his bride. Five lonely years later, she persuades her husband to go to Athens and bring her sister, Philomele, to join her. On the journey back, Tereus develops a passionate love for Philomele. She rejects him and is raped (off-stage). To prevent her revealing what he’s done, Tereus cuts out her tongue (on-stage). He tells Procne her sister is dead. Years later, Philomele arrives in Thrace and during the women’s Bacchanalian revels shows her sister what happened to her using giant puppets. In revenge, the sisters kill Tereus’ only son. To escape his pursuit, the gods turn them into birds.


THE PRODUCTION : The play demands an ensemble approach. There are no small acting parts. It is written with male and female choruses, each 5 strong, though we may alter both the gender balance and the numbers. All chorus members play multiple roles and may well never leave the stage which will be mostly bare to allow scenes to flow rapidly in place and time, aided by music, masks, movement and, perhaps, puppets.  


Philomele (fil-uh-mee-luh)  : 20s, King Pandion’s younger daughter. Indiscreet in her naivety, in love with words and ideas: ‘I asked too many questions.’ Unguarded, even wild, in her enthusiasm to experience life and love.  In 12 of 21 scenes : over 250 lines

Procne (prok-nee)  : 20-30, King Pandion’s elder daughter. She shares her sister’s love of words and ideas but is calmer, more self-controlled. Alienated in uncivilized Thrace, she mourns the loss of the sisterly bond. In 9 of 21 scenes : around 170 lines

Tereus (teer-ee-uhs)  : 30-40, King of Thrace. A powerful, ruthless warrior, fascinated but bemused by Athens’ civilized values embodied in the two sisters. His self-discipline breaks down before Philomele’s innocence and openness.  In 13 of 21 scenes  : around 175 lines

CHORUSES : Up to 10 actors, mix of male and female, varying ages. They tell the story and play many roles in it : royalty, soldiers, actors, sailors, servants,  a child etc.  I will be looking for flexibility in voice and movement and the willingness to experiment with choric devices. They will be on stage most, if not all, the time. Everyone will have 100+ lines and play named characters as well as chorus.

REHEARSAL DETAILS : Rehearsals begin Monday 20th January from 7-10pm on weekday evenings. Given the constant presence on stage of most of the cast, you can expect to be called for up to THREE or, later, FOUR evenings per week but I will try to avoid dates you cannot make. Some weekend rehearsals may be required if we fall behind through absence or illness.

AUDITIONS will be held on Sunday 1st December from 2pm Please contact the director in advance if you wish to audition as you will be asked to deliver a short speech from the play which will be sent in advance and should be learned. You will be needed for up to 1 hour. Call-back auditions involving pairs of characters will follow as required.

We will use the Faber edition: Wertenbaker Plays 1 ISBN: 0571177433 as it is more readily available in cheap second-hand copies. Please try to read the play before auditioning.