Canute The King

Site Specific   Studio Theatre  

There were two versions of Canute the King. The first was performed for three nights around, on and under water at the beautiful Edwardian swimming baths on Moseley Road, Birmingham The second toured in an inch of water.

Like Memoirs of an Amnesiac before it, Canute the King was loosely based on an historical figure. The story / legend of Canute was appropriated for its metaphoric potential and fused with other figures. Aelthruda, Canute’s wife, became an important foil in a piece which came to be about fate, duty, humanity, identity, sacrifice and loss. The biographiesof Edward VIII, Princess Diana and Prince Charles all informed both productions.

The pool version was primarily a visual spectacle. Journeys, around, over and under the water wereaccompanied by taped music, live classical singing, blues harmonica and slide projections. A piermade from wood found on the streets of Highgate and Balsall Heath jutted out from the deep end. Ameal was eaten underwater. A flotilla of silver, candle lit boats were launched from a raft and, atthe close, inevitably, Canute sank (or did the waters rise?).

The scale and logisticalcomplexity of the pool version was sharply contrasted by the simplicity of the second version. Stripped back to its thematic and narrative core the piece was completely remade for touring.Now a two hander, without live music, but still with projections and silver boats, the piece became flooded with text. It charted the royal couple’s last night togetherhuddled in the top tower room of a drowned palace. Extremely simple in its form, elegiac in its tone and content, Canute was a comic piece of theatrical poetry, beautiful and sad.


devised and performed by: Amanda Hadingue and Graeme Rose
singers: Richard Chew & Cheryl Pickering
harmonica: Joel Squires
direction and text: James Yarker
music: Richard Chew
lighting: Simon Gowan
slides: Martin Crook & Ben Wheatley
set: Stan’s Cafe
art work: Simon Ford

Made with money from West Midlands Arts and K Cider.


devised and performed: Amanda Hadingue and Graeme Rose
direction and text: James Yarker
music: Richard Chew
slides: Martin Crook & Ben Wheatley
set: Stan’s Cafe
art work: Simon Ford

Tour Dates

  • 23rd October 1993:
    National Review of Live Art, I.C.A., London

  • 29th September 1993:
    Music Hall, Shrewsbury

  • 12th September 1993:
    Harlington Festival, Bedfordshire

  • 3rd – 4th June 1993:
    Library Theatre, Birmingham

  • Kendal Castle (cancelled due to weather)

  • 31st May 1993:
    Northern International Mime Festival

  • 8th May1993:
    Bridport Arts Centre, Dorset

  • 6th May 1993:
    Exeter Arts Centre (cancelled)

  • 2nd May 1993:
    Progress Theatre, Reading

  • 29th April 1993:
    Powerhouse, Nottingham

  • 28th April 1993:
    Nuffield Theatre Studio, Lancaster

  • 23rd April 1993:
    Old Bull Arts Centre, Barnet

  • 27th March 1993:
    New Vic Studio, Newcastle under Lyme