|Chorus||Zinash Attridge, David Bird, Kate Bissett, Dawn Cope, Vic Harrington, Heather Livermore, Rachel Moon, David Nash, Johnny Parr, Janet Rossiter, Joan Yates|
|Reginald Fitz Urse||Sarah Smith|
|Hugh De Morville||Alison Reeve|
|William De Traci||John Nixon|
|Richard Brito||Andrew Kent|
|Production Support||Pam Hagan, Richard Davey, Elise Horlick, Dan Ruge-Cope, Christine Ruge-Cope, Ian Buswell, Mike Appleby, Ken Cope|
The Play and the playwright
Thomas Becket was born in Cheapside, London, c.1119. In 1155 he was appointed Lord Chancellor by Henry II, enforcing the king's traditional exaction of revenue from all landowners, including churches and bishoprics.
In 1162 Thomas became Archbishop of Canterbury. Henry may have hoped that Becket would continue to put the royal government first. However, Becket resigned his chancellorship and sought to recover and extend the rights of the archbishopric. This led to a series of conflicts until a frustrated Henry uttered words history records as ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?’
On 29 December 1170 four knights arrived at Canterbury and informed Becket he was to go to Winchester to give an account of his actions. Becket refused and was murdered.
He was canonised in 1173 and is venerated as a saint and martyr. The site of his shrine (since destroyed) remains a site of pilgrimage to this day.
And the knights? They were not arrested nor were their lands confiscated. They were all excommunicated and, seeking forgiveness, were ordered by the Pope to serve as knights in the Holy Lands for a period of fourteen years.
Thomas Stearns Eliot was an essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic. He became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39, renouncing his American citizenship. Eliot attracted widespread attention for his poems but was also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935). He died on 4 January 1965.