On Saturday 24th May, an audience of over 350 braved driving rain, thick mud and the lateness of the hour to witness something remarkable. The most brilliant Shakespearean actor of his generation, Mark Rylance, joined Paul Kingsnorth to present The Wake, Paul’s novel set among a band of Saxon rebels resisting the Norman invasion.
Paul set the scene, giving us an amazingly fluent and detailed account of the historical background and reminding us that the Norman invasion was probably the most traumatic event in English history with consequences that are still felt today. This alternated with Mark Rylance’s compelling readings from the novel itself, which brought the narrator, Buccmaster, to vivid life. By the end of the event, many made the comparison to Rylance’s most famous role: Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in Jez Butterworth’s landmark play, Jerusalem. Like Rooster, Buccmaster is a rebel, a free man, a devotee of the old Gods and a complex mix of menace and charisma. Rylance’s matchless control of tone and pitch meant that the shadow tongue in which Buccmaster’s narrative is written was both intelligible and deeply moving. The excitement afterwards was palpable.
Paul Kingsnorth (left) and Mark Rylance
Such is Mark’s enthusiasm for the book we hope to have news soon of further collaborations and events soon. In the meantime, if you would like to hear the event, you can visit the Hay website here and download it for 99p.